Troy Montgomery and Jalen Washington provided the big hits, but the bullpen does the heavy work to finish the job.
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — Ohio State needed a three-game sweep this weekend, and they got it—but at what cost?
The Buckeyes dropped Purdue 5-1 Sunday, but starter Adam Niemeyer—critical to their stretch run—had to leave the game after just two innings.
The sophomore right-hander allowed just one hit, but showed uncharacteristic lack of control, hitting one batter in the first and two in the second when he narrowly escaped a bases-loaded jam.
Niemeyer, who missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was forced to miss a start four weeks ago against Maryland after injuring his hamstring in his previous start.
“The hamstring,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “It was pretty sore and Adam didn’t feel like he could go back out there, and we didn’t want to push it,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “But our ‘bullpen by committee’ came on and did the job for us—got us another win. The guys all did their job. It speaks to the strength, the depth and the competitiveness of those guys.”
“It sucked to see Adam go down like that, but it’s nothing serious and our bullpen did the job for us,” said center fielder Troy Montgomery, who doubled home the game-winning run. “They’ve been doing that all year long.”
Indeed they have. The only dent in the pen Sunday was a single run, given up by Austin Woodby in the third. Together—Woodby, Seth Kinker, Michael Horejsei and Kyle Michalik—worked six innings allowing just five hits.
Purdue manufactured the go-ahead run in the third. Kyle Johnson opened the inning with a single to left, and Woodby walked the next hitter. A sac bunt moved the runners up and Daniel Sander’s sacrifice fly to left put Purdue up, 1-0. Beyond that, the Boilermakers were a scratch.
“We’ve got every confidence in our bullpen and they’ve earned every bit of it,” Montgomery said. “They kept us in the game again today until we could finally get something going with the bats.”
Boilermaker starter Shane Bryant held OSU in check through five, giving up only three hits before handing it off to the Purdue pen, which didn’t prove to be up to the task.
With one out in the seventh, the Buckeyes finally got something going. Craig Nennig doubled to left. With Jalen Washington at the plate, Nennig took third on a passed ball. Tanner Schumacher, Purdue’s third pitcher in the game, then hit Washington.
Montgomery came to the plate riding an 0-for-3.
“I just wasn’t swinging the bat very well all weekend,” Montgomery said. “I was looking for something low, maybe a fastball, but he finally fed me a change-up and I got it.”
With a full count, Montgomery ripped it to the gap in left- center. Nennig scored easily, and Washington scored from first to make it 3-1, Ohio State.
“Jalen is not a normal catcher, not at all,” Montgomery said. “He can run, I mean run…In sprints, he’s not that far behind me and Ronnie (Dawson).”
Washington, a junior co-captain, was not done for the day. In the eighth, his ground single to left scored two runs and capped the day for the Bucks.
Dawson started the rally with a double to right-center. Nick Sergakis followed with a ground single to left, forcing Dawson to hold at third. One out later, Nennig drew a walk to load the bases, bringing Washington to the plate.
“That was a big time, two-out clutch hit,” Beals said. “Jalen does a lot for us, and a lot of it doesn’t show up in the scorebook.”
“If it weren’t for Jalen,” Montgomery said, “we wouldn’t be where we are, seriously.”
On this day, as has been the case before this season, the bottom of the order carried the load. The five thru nine hitters – Kuhn (3-for-5), Tre’ Gantt (1-for-4), Nennig (1-for-2) and Washington (2-for-3) – accounted seven of Ohio State’s 10 hits and three of their five runs.
“We believe in those guys,” Beals said. “Today, we got really good work from ’em down on the bottom.”
The three-game sweep comes as OSU looks down the barrel of the Big Ten schedule. After two mid-week games against UAB, Iowa comes to Bill Davis Stadium and then, it’s Michigan at Columbus.
The sweep at Purdue gives the Buckeyes an 8-7 record in the conference. They are 28-14-1 overall. And make no mistake, taking these three meant a great deal.
“Oh, yeah,” Montgomery said. “We feel a whole lot better…We still just need to take it one step at a time…Get those quality at bats, those good swings. If we can do those basic things, we should be okay.”