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Baseball: Ohio State pulls off dramatic comeback after down 7-0 against Kent State

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Ohio State redshirt senior first baseman Zach Ratcliff at bat during the Scarlet and Gray World Series in October 2016. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

The Ohio State baseball team (12-16, 1-5) found themselves down in a massive 7-0 hole early in its inter-state matchup against Kent State (17-10, 5-1), but came all the way back to win 9-8 before the game ended in the seventh due to weather.

The Golden Flashes produced seven runs over their first three innings, but a grand slam from redshirt senior designated hitter Zach Ratcliff and nine walks from Kent State pitching helped OSU overcome the early deficit.

OSU coach and Kent State alumna Greg Beals said he believes a win that required a substantial comeback can help the team believe in themselves and develop some confidence in their game.

“A win like today, I think can really mean a lot more than just one win because it gives them that believing, it should rekindle that believing factor that we certainly need to finish strong,” Beals said. “And with a team that’s been struggling — 11-16 coming in and struggling on some weekend series — may start to question themselves.”

Beals, who graduated from Kent State in 1995, said that playing against his alma mater did not greater affect his desire to get a win, but it was a motivator nonetheless.

“Between my wife and I, we’ve got four diplomas from that school. So it is a place that is fond to us, but it also doesn’t mean anything come competition time,” Beals said. “I told the guys before the game, I said, ‘It’s my alma mater, and I love it, but it’s kinda like playing your brother in the backyard, I want to kick his butt too.’”

Back-to-back hits gave the Golden Flashes’ No. 3 hitter and senior second baseman Dom Iero a pair of runners in scoring position in the top of the first inning. Iero doubled to deep center field, scoring both runners and giving Kent State the 2-0 lead.

Two outs later, redshirt junior left fielder Reilly Hawkins singled to right center field and drove in Iero from third.

The following inning, redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Austin Woodby again found himself in some trouble. He allowed back-to-back-to-back singles, the latter of which drove in the Golden Flashes’ fourth run of the day.

Iero again stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third and drilled a hard groundball that scored both runners, giving Kent State the 6-0 lead.

The Golden Flashes scored again in the top of the third on an RBI single from redshirt junior center fielder Mason Mamarella.

With the bases load and two down in the bottom of the third inning, Buckeyes’ freshman right fielder Dominic Canzone lined a bases-clearing double into the right-center field gap, bringing the score to 7-3.

The Golden Flashes responded in the top half of the fourth inning to extend their lead to 8-3.

The Flashes starter lost control in the bottom of the fourth inning. He walked four batters, loading the bases and walking in a single run before redshirt senior designated hitter Zach Ratcliff crushed a 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall for a game-tying grand slam.

Ratcliff said that moment was one of the highlights of his career, “Probably No. 1.”

“I’ve been slumping a little bit and to get a good pitch to handle in that situation and tie the game,” Ratcliff said. “That one definitely felt pretty good.”

In the bottom of the fifth, junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt was picked off at first and caught in a rundown, but he managed to avoid the tag long enough to allow junior first baseman Bo Coolen to score from third and give the Buckeyes the 9-8 lead.

The Golden Flashes again took control of the game, but it was the golden flashes of lightning and not the Kent State batters, as the game officially entered a rain delay, and would later be called.

During the game, the Buckeyes were the beneficiary of a total of nine walks, five of which came in the fourth inning when the team tied it up.

Down by seven runs and demonstrating patience to lay off all those pitches, the team showed that they believed in their approach and in themselves, Beals said.

“That believing factor, it’s critical because if you stop believing and maybe you start trying to do too much and you start trying to swing, you get out of the zone, you do some more things,” Beals said. “And I thought some balls that were definitely balls, but I thought they weren’t awful. I thought our guys did a good job of not chasing.”

Next up, the Buckeyes travel to University Park on Friday to begin a three-game series against Penn State (10-17, 0-3). And with a 1-5 record in conference play, the Buckeyes will be looking to carry some of this momentum into next weekend.

“Last weekend against Purdue, and even against Minnesota we were hitting balls hard and guys were definitely starting to get frustrated,” Ratcliff said. “Then to finally have some balls drop and get some momentum into Big Ten play, we can definitely go on a run.”

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