Greg Hoard
Greg Hoard

Born in Indiana and educated in Georgia, Greg Hoard came to Cincinnati in the winter of 1979 as a columnist for the Cincinnati Post sports department, and joined the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1984 as the beat writer for the Cincinnati Reds.  He has received numerous awards for his work. In 1990, he left journalism for television. Hoard worked for WLWT-TV from 1990 through 1993 as sports director and spent 12 years as sports director at WXIX-TV. His written work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Baseball America, Baseball Digest and NFL Game Day. He has appeared on ESPN and NBC’s The Today Show. Greg is the author of three books: Joe, Rounding Home and Heading for Home; Gary Burbank, Voices in My Head; and, most recently, Hannan’s Way, An Unlikely Trek Through Life. He is currently working on a baseball memoir, parts of which he will share here.

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Left for dead after four innings, OSU went from caterpillar to butterfly, scoring 15 unanswered runs to take the rubber game of their weekend series with Purdue, 16-6!

COLUMBUS — In the world governed by reason, what’s normal and ordinary, this sort of thing simply doesn’t happen.

But there are times when baseball escapes all that’s normal and reasonable, and delivers something entirely unlikely. The spectacle that took place Sunday afternoon at Bill Davis Stadium was one of those times.

The Ohio State Buckeyes scored 15 unanswered runs and defeated Purdue, 16-6.

They did so on ‘Senior Day’, when they honored nine of their own. They did so against a Purdue bullpen that was 24-2 when they entered a game with the lead.

They did so when it looked as if they were done for the day, down 6-1 in the fourth and on the threshold of losing the deciding game in a Big Ten series, which they truly needed to win.

It didn’t turn out that way.

The Buckeyes will go into the final week of the Big Ten regular season at Michigan State, 33-17, overall; 13-8 in the Big Ten. Purdue left Bill Davis 30-18 and 14-6 in the conference.

This game changed and changed on the contributions of many, but it began with two seniors, two friends: Adam Niemeyer, who started the game fighting a tender hamstring, and Austin Woodby, who entered the game with one out in the pivotal fourth and put his foot down on the Purdue offense.

As OSU Coach Greg Beals put it, “Woodby flipped the switch.”

“Coach handed me the ball and said, ‘Keep ‘em right here.’,” Woodby said. “Nemo (Niemeyer) said, ‘You got this.’ Hearing that from them felt good. I knew I didn’t have to do anything special. Just throw strikes.”

“I told him,” Beals said, referring to that mound meeting, “’Woody, you are going to calm the waters. Let’s change the momentum right here.’”

Austin Woodby picked up teammate Adam Niemeyer and his team with 2.2 innings of 2-hit, scoreless baseball.

Woodby did just that. He gave Ohio State 2.2 innings of two-hit, scoreless ball.

For his part, Beals went back to the Buckeyes dugout and changed hats.

“I became a cheerleader,” he said, laughing. “It’s, ‘Let’s go guys. Let’s keep ‘em here. It’s time for our offense to take over the ballgame.’ I didn’t realize it was gonna take off that way.”

It turns out Beals is a pretty good cheerleader.

“We’re thinking, ‘Hey, it’s just the fourth inning,’” said Dom Canzone, who turned in a career day. Canzone was 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI. He reached base in six consecutive at-bats, drawing two walks.

“But what was the most impressive thing he did today?” Beals asked, rhetorically.

It was the throw. In the seventh inning—Ohio State leading 7-6—Purdue’s Ben Nisle singled to right. One out later Alec Olund hit a single through the right side of the infield.

Conner Pohl eyes his RBI single in the sixth that gave the Buckeyes the lead.

Nisle took second easily but then decided to test Canzone’s arm. It was a bad decision. Canzone charged the ball and then delivered a shot to Conner Pohl at third.

Nisle was nailed; out at third and in right field, Canzone shot a fist into the air and then pointed to third.

“It’s one of those things you think about when you are a little kid, being the guy that makes the play, throws the guy out in a big game, a big situation,” Canzone said.

He smiled.

“It’s fun,” he said.

“His biggest play was the throw,” Beal said. “At that point it was still a one-run game (7-6, OSU).  That was a big out, a really big out.”

After this game, understatement seemed most fitting. All the talking had been done from the fifth through the eighth innings.

Consider what took place. The Buckeyes scored two runs in the fifth, four in the sixth, two in the seventh and seven in the eighth. Yes, seven runs in the eighth inning.

Seven runs is as many or more runs than Ohio State has scored in 26 of its 50 games.

Canzone (left) and Noah McGowan walk off after McGowan’s ‘coup de gras’ homer, is ninth, in the eighth.

It wasn’t an ordinary day. Even wishes were granted. Noah West came to the plate in the eighth with the bases loaded and one run already in, the score standing, 10-6 Bucks.

“Westie comes up with the bases loaded,” Woodby said, “and I’m just thinking a little double in the gap. When the ball was in the air we’re all yelling, ‘Holy heck that ball is outta here.”

An hour after the game, West was still smiling. He had reason.

“I was looking, I was hoping for a pitch down-and-in that I could get around on,” West said. “That’s exactly what I visualized and that’s exactly what I got. Exactly.”

His wish wasn’t wasted. West was all over the pitch. The ball soared over the left field wall and West had the first grand slam of his life and the first home run of his Ohio State career.

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“Well,” he said, still unable to contain his smile, “I might have had (a grand slam) in Little League, something like that. I’m not really sure.”

West was sure about this one, though. Someone had already collected the ball and given it to his mother, Caren, as a memento.

West’s granny made it 14-6, and they were not through. Canzone singled to left and one out later, Noah McGowan belted his ninth home run of the season. It was 16-6.

Bucks coach Greg Beals got plenty of exercise in the seven run eighth.

Seth Kinker shut it down with his third inning of scoreless ball, earning his 13th save. Woodby had the win and Ohio State had cranked out 17 hits, seven for extra bases—five doubles and two home runs—and gone through seven Purdue pitchers.

Five Buckeyes had two hits or more: Canzone (4-for-4), Kobie Foppe (2-for-4), McGowan (2-for-4), Tyler Cowles (2-for-6), Dillon Dingler (2-for-6), and West (3-for-3).

When someone offered that West had a pretty good day, Beals chuckled. “Is that all we’re going to say,” he said. “Let’s see: 3-for-3, four runs scored, five RBI and a walk. Yeah, pretty good day.”

Once again, Ohio State had come from behind to take a game and this time in an emphatic way.

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“We are kinda of a team that likes to come back,” West said..

“It was a product of us believing in ourselves,” Woodby said.

And there was, yet, something else of importance. It may have been one of the most important things about this game and something that could play a big part in what’s left of the season. Beals brought it up right away.

“We maintained a competitive calmness today,” he said. “There wasn’t a moment of panic…We just kept playing.”

Mother’s Club…It was ‘senior’ day, and it was Mother’s Day at the ballpark on Sunday. The Bucks made it one to remember with a comeback win.

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