Buckeyes Sweep Northwestern, Keep Tournament Hopes Alive
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Led by yet another strong pitching performance, this time by starter John Kuchno, the Buckeyes stifled the Wildcat bats to the turn of a 4-1 victory on Sunday.
Ohio State (27-20, 11-10) banged out 13 hits on the afternoon while the Buckeye pitching held Northwestern to just six base hits of their own.
The sweep was absolutely necessary for the Buckeyes to maintain their Big Ten Tournament hopes.
"As far as where we're sitting in the conference, we really needed to do this," said coach Greg Beals. "It was big for our guys to make up some ground this weekend."
The Buckeyes started fast on offense, scoring three runs in the first inning while managing just one base hit. Tim Wetzel led off with a single and then advanced to second on a Luke Farrell balk. Ryan Cypret reached on a throwing error by shortstop Kyle Ruchim, and then Josh Dezse was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A ground out by Mike Carroll scored Wetzel, and a second balk scored Cypret. A ground out from Brad Hallberg capped the inning by scoring Carroll, who had reached third base via a stolen base.
The Wildcats tried to answer right back in the top of the second inning by loading the bases with two outs, but a ground out by Hamilton Wise ended the Northwestern threat.
Despite runners on the bases for both teams, the scoring went quiet for the next few innings. Northwestern finally plated a run in the sixth inningn when Kyle Ruchim led off with a single then scored on an error by Dezse at first base. John Kuchno closed out the inning, finishing his outing with six innings pitched, while only giving up six hits and one earned run.
"John was not great today, but he was awfully good," Beals said. "At the end of the day it was a quality start. He didn't have his best stuff, but he fought his way through it."
Andrew Armstrong came on for Kuchno in the seventh inning and despite walking a batter, retired the Wildcats without any damage done. David Fathalikhani then pitched a perfect eighth for the Buckeyes, keeping Northwestern far from the base paths.
Ohio State went looking for some insurance runs in the eighth inning as Hallberg led off with a walk and then Patrick Porter followed that up with a single. A pop up by David Corna and a ground out by Kirby Pellant hampered the Buckeyes' attempt. Catcher Aaron Gretz walked, and Wetzel then followed that up with bouncer that died between the catcher and third baseman, scoring a run in the process. Cypret popped out to second base to end the inning with Ohio State leading 4-1.
Closer Josh Dezse came on to close out the ninth and pitched another perfect inning for the Buckeye bullpen to finish out the Wildcats and sweep the series.
"The head coach looks smart when guys go out and do what they're supposed to do, and that was the key," Beals said. "Fath and Armstrong and Dezse, bang bang bang, and they do what they're supposed to do and we got ourselves a big win today."
Wetzel, Cypret and Dezse each had two hits on the day, as did Porter and Corna. For the second game in a row, every Buckeye starter reached base at least once.
Up next for the Buckeyes is a trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma for a pair of games against Oklahoma State on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This weekend they will host non-conference foe Seattle for a three-game set. They will close the Big Ten regular season the following weekend at Indiana where they likely will need to win the series in order to have a legitimate shot at the Big Ten Tournament.
- Kirby Pellant has reached base safely in his last 18 games.
- Josh Dezse has reached base safely in 46 of 47 contests this season.
- The Buckeyes are 22-0 when leading after seven innings.
- Every Buckeye starter reached base for the second consecutive game.
- Josh Dezse recorded his 15th multi-hit game of the season.
- Ohio State recorded 10 or more hits (13) for the 19th time this season. The Buckeyes are 15-4 in those games.
- Starting pitcher John Kuchno moved to 7-3 on the season with the victory.
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