What seemed more than just another mid-week game, Wright State’s baseball team ventured to Bill Davis Stadium Wednesday to show its wares and make a good impression. And without a doubt…they did.
Columbus – It’s not that the college baseball world isn’t aware of the Wright State Raiders. They’ve had good baseball on the Fairborn campus for years and routinely knock off some of the nation’s best Division I programs – Mississippi and Oklahoma State, and East Carolina already this year.
And on a warm evening at Bill Davis Stadium Wednesday last night, Alex Sogard’s 34-15 Raiders came to earn some scarlet and gray respect, as well. They had already made their case in the Big Ten with a 15-4 win over Indiana back on April 3rd (Indiana is 31-17), but in Ohio there’s nothing like going to Columbus to take on your own ‘Big Red’. And they were comfortable doing it, having beaten the Buckeyes in an NCAA regional elimination game back in 2016. Overall, Ohio State holds a 23-18-1 edge all-time meetings between the two.
“It’s a really good game for us,” said first-year coach Alex Sogard, who took over after two years as an assistant under Jeff Mercer when Mercer took the Indiana coaching job last winter.
“You always want to play the best competition you can for the sake of ‘RPI’ (rating percentage index) because of the NCAA tournament. Our wins over Mississippi and Oklahoma State help us in that regard, but when we play in conference our RPI really falls.”
Still, Wright State is a pretty good bet to make the NCAA regional again with a 34-15 overall mark, and a commanding 16-8 record in the Horizon League.
“But again, because of RPI we need to win our conference tourney to guarantee a spot,” adds Sogard.
Hence, you look for the best games you can find out of conference in April and May, and Ohio State was a welcome mark.
The Raiders scored first, taking a 2-0 lead in the second inning off Buckeye starter Jake Vance. But Ohio State tied things with single runs in the third and fourth…and Arcanum native Conner Pohl gave the Buckeyes a 4-2 lead in the fifth with a two-run homer, his second of the year.
Notwithstanding their desire to bring home braggin’ rights from Columbus, Wednesday non-con games are for getting work and innings for extra pitchers and position players, and both teams got that. Still, Wright State was not about to fold the tent and be satisfied with just ‘work’.
They scored three times to retake the lead in the top of the seventh on a pair of hits and three walks by Buckeye reliever Bayden Root.
Undeterred, Ohio State came back in the eighth to go up 6-5 on Dominic Canzone’s 13th homer of the year, driving in teammate Marcus Ernst. Closer Andrew Magno came on in the ninth to button things down, faced four, and got the job done on a game-ending double play.
“It was a good game,” said Sogard afterwards, wincing over the late lead that got away. “It’s always good to come to a place like this and wave the flag a bit. This is for braggin’ rights in the state and games like this are a good thing for the sake of recruiting. We see those guys out there when we’re out looking for players.
“But,” he added, “we go into every one of these games like this expecting to win. I know they’re the ‘big brother’, but we’ve always believed that we could match them guy for guy.”
May 8 turned out to be a fortuitous date for both teams in terms of getting together for a game. And there’s little question going forward that the Wright State Raiders will always welcome the opportunity to play Ohio State.
“It was a good game, but it hurts to lose,” admitted Sogard, the competitor in him showing through. “Even if it helps us down the road.”
For at least now…braggin’ rights wears scarlet and gray.