The Buckeyes used a 7-run first inning and fine starting pitching to open their weekend ‘Challenge’ series in Phoenix with an impressive win over Utah.
It was hardly a slugfest, but Ohio State got off to a solid start Thursday night in the Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge at Surprise, AZ., dropping Utah, 7-2.
The Buckeyes, now 4-1, heading into tomorrow’s meeting with No.2 Oregon State scored all seven runs in the first inning. They sent 13 hitters to the plate in the first, collecting five hits and four walks.
For the game, OSU had a total of eight walks and 10 hits, none for extra bases. Nonetheless, Buckeyes coach Greg Beals liked what he saw and is seeing from his club.
“Obviously, we had a really good first inning,” he said. “They helped us out with some walks, but we strung some hits together, had a couple of two strike hits, to take it from maybe two or three runs to seven runs.”
It was, in fact, a remarkable showing. It was 4-0 Ohio State before two were out. Utah starter Riley Pierce was pulled after facing just four hitters.
“There wasn’t an injury,” Beals said. “He wasn’t throwing too many strikes.”
Pierce threw 16 pitches. Six were strikes. Ohio State was showing patience and maturity at the plate, recognizing an opening and early on.
Dom Canzone, who drove in two of Ohio State’s runs, opened the game drawing a walk. Kobie Foppe followed with a bunt single and Brady Cherry singled through the right side to load the bases.
Noah McGowan followed with a full-count walk to make it 1-0 OSU, and the Utes pulled the plug on Pierce. His replacement, Jacob Rebar, wasn’t very stout either. He walked Connor Pohl to force in another run.
A fielder’s choice and an error made it 3-0 and kept the bases loaded. Dillon Dingler’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
At that point, Jacob Barnwell supplied one of those two-strike singles Beals mentioned and the bases were loaded once more.
After Malik Jones struck out swinging, Canzone came back to the plate for a second time and drilled a two run single to right to make it 6-0.
A single by Foppe, his second hit in the inning, made it, 7-0. All this, and the Buckeyes left the bases loaded.
“We could have gotten more out of that inning,” Beals said, “and probably should have.”
Lefty Connor Curlis was the beneficiary of the early seven-spot. He gave the Buckeyes 5.1 innings, allowing four hits and a run. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
Curlis sailed through the first three innings, facing just 11 hitters and allowing one hit. Utah’s Chandler Anderson reached base to start the second on Brady Cherry’s error, but the first of Ohio State’s three DP’s quelled the threat.
Utah finally reached Curlis for a run in the fourth on a one-out single and Wade Gulden’s hard double down the right field line. Curlis pitched a scoreless fifth and opened the sixth by striking out Tom Ryker.
At that point, Beals went to the bullpen for right-hander Austin Woodby.
“It was a matter of pitch count,” Beals said. “He was at 95 and they had a couple of righties coming up. He threw 80-something last week. We felt like 90 was where he needed to be…We didn’t want to get him up to 100, 105. Not at this point, and he had done a nice job.”
Anderson greeted Woodby with a double to left and moved on to third on a wild pitch. A walk put runners at first and third and a single to left by Oliver Dunn scored Utah’s second run.
Woodby got help from the Bucks’ second DP in the seventh after issuing a walk to start the inning.
Utah loaded the bases again in the eighth, but with one out Beals pulled Woodby and called on Kyle Michalik.
“He threw two pitches and got us the double play ground ball to get out us of the inning,” Beals said. “Nice job, huh?”
This was a convincing, clean win. (Ohio State made just one error and that on a wind-blown fly ball).
Naturally, Beals would have preferred to see more scoring in the game.
“I wish we would have continued to score more throughout the game,” Beals said. “We had opportunities but we didn’t string together the hits to get ‘em in. I’m a little disappointed by that…But, overall, I was pleased with the quality of our at-bats and our approach.”
Tomorrow afternoon, Ohio State runs up against No. 2 Oregon State, 5-0. The Beavers defeated Nebraska Thursday night, 9-1, collecting 17 hits. Nick Madrigal, the odds-on favorite to win the 2018 Golden Spikes Award, led the way. He was 3-for-5 with a home run. The Beavers also got three hits from Cadyn Gretler and Trevor Larnach went 2-for-5 with two RBI.
OSU is hitting .396 as a team. Gretler and Zak Taylor have hit safely in all five or Oregon State’s games.
“Oregon State. That’s what everybody has been talking about,” Beals said. “Everyone. Everyone on campus said we were going to Arizona to play Oregon State. Everyone was writing we are going to Arizona to play Oregon State.
“I made sure our guys knew we were playing Utah first…I said on ‘Meet the Team’ night, ‘This team has some proving to do.’ Well, we have a marvelous opportunity to do some proving tomorrow against Oregon State. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I’m eager to see how we respond.”
Last year, Ohio State handed Oregon State one of its six losses in the entire season.
It was the biggest feather in the Buckeyes hat in 2017. Of course, at Oregon State that’s probably been prominent bulletin board material.