In its second game on Saturday and fourth game in four days, No. 4 seed Ohio State Buckeyes avoided elimination once again by defeating the No. 7 seed Michigan State Spartans on a game-winning homerun in the 10th inning off the bat of junior outfielder Ronnie Dawson. The Buckeyes’ victory in the Big Ten semifinal forces a second game with MSU on Sunday morning to determine who will play the eighth-seeded Hawkeyes in the one-game Big Ten final.
Since OSU’s first game of the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday against Michigan, coach Greg Beals drew the path for his Buckeyes to reach the Big Ten final. A ninth-inning collapse against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday created a detour littered with adversity to reach the championship game, but OSU had stepped up time and time again.
Dawson’s home run was his 10th hit of the tournament, leading all Buckeye hitters. He powered OSU to a victory over Big Ten regular season champ Minnesota on an identical home run in the same inning just a week ago. Dawson has become OSU’s leader on the field through its Big Ten tournament run and seems to come through at the most important times.
MSU was playing its third game of the tournament, so its pitching staff was rested and ready to go. Out of necessity, Beals had to pencil in senior pitcher Daulton Mosbarger for his first start in his career with the Buckeyes. It was a classic cat-and-mouse game. When OSU scored, the Spartans retaliated. MSU took the lead in the third, OSU came right back to knot things at 2-2 in the top of the fourth.
Each team traded blows throughout seven innings. After Mosbarger left in the fifth inning allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out five, redshirt sophomore Kyle Michalik took the reigns and ended all chances of MSU scoring the go-ahead run.
Spartans redshirt sophomore reliever Jake Lowry was equally as impressive out of the bullpen. In the eighth, OSU junior outfielder Ronnie Dawson smacked a leadoff double down the right field line for his ninth hit of the tournament. Lowry came back with two straight strikeouts to end the Buckeye threat.
Coming in for Michalik was sophomore pitcher Seth Kinker, who was on the hill when Iowa started its miraculous comeback and devastated the Buckeyes. Beals still had confidence in his pitcher to give his team a chance to survive and advance.
Kinker delivered a scoreless eighth inning with a pair of strikeouts, and with the go-ahead run on second base in the ninth inning, Kinker fielded a ground ball back to the mound and alertly caught the MSU runner between base paths which ended up in a double play to clear the bases. Kinker struck out the next batter, which set the stage for Dawson to become the hero.
Redshirt sophomore Yianni Pavlopoulos was credited with the save in the 10th, and the Buckeyes advance to the final day of the tournament.
The victory improves the Buckeyes record to 41-18-1, likely putting them firmly in the NCAA tournament picture.
Austin Woodby will start for OSU against the Spartans on Sunday at 10 a.m. for the right to go to the Big Ten tournament final.