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Baseball: Ohio State wins two of three to start season

A rude awakening almost knocked the Buckeyes off course, but they managed to bounce back and hold firm to win the weekend.

The Ohio State Buckeyes (2-1) began the 2020 season with an Opening Day loss to Saint Joseph’s and back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Indiana State. The shaky start caused the Buckeyes to drop out of the NCAA Division I rankings.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Garrett Burhenn began the season on the bump for the Buckeyes and pitched a scoreless first inning Friday against Saint Joseph’s. In the following inning, the Hawks scored an unearned run and put pressure on the Buckeyes, who later evened up the score 1-1 after junior catcher Dillon Dingler’s sacrifice fly.

The tie would not last long, as Hawks left fielder Langston Livingston hit a three-run home run to stretch the lead to 4-1, and the Buckeyes never caught up, eventually falling 7-3.

Dingler finished 1-3 with two RBI, and senior shortstop Noah West went 1-3 with two runs. Burhenn pitched five innings and allowed six hits and four runs, and sophomore Mitch Milheim impressed with 2.1 IP with four strikeouts.

Ohio State brought vengeance with them the next day against Pittsburgh. Redshirt sophomore left-handler Seth Lonsway got the start and dazzled with six innings pitched, one hit and 12 strikeouts after settling down and allowing a run in his first inning of work. Sophomore RHP Bayden Root followed him with unmatched pitching of his own, throwing three scoreless innings of one-hit ball and punching out six batters en route to saving a 4-1 Buckeyes win.

The Buckeyes offense was led by Dingler and sophomore third baseman Zach Dezenzo, each with two hits. Freshman center fielder Nate Karaffa earned his first collegiate base hit and RBI Saturday and started all three games in the lead off spot in the lineup.

The vengeance Ohio State brought into Saturday was carried into Sunday, also. The Buckeyes had the chance to avenge being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament last season by Indiana State. It would not come easy, though.

Junior LHP Griffin Smith started on the mound, but did not last as long as the previous Buckeyes starters, pitching three innings and allowed five hits, but only one run. Freshman RHP Wyatt Loncar followed Smith and pitched 2.1 innings and allowed three walks, contrary to Smith’s zero.

Indiana State was held to four runs all the way through to the bottom of the ninth, where Ohio State was trying to close out a 6-4 lead. However, fifth-year senior LHP Patrick Murphy could not hold down the Sycamores and allowed two runs for a blown save.

Heading into extra innings for the first time in the young 2020 season tied 6-6, the Buckeyes exploded with four runs in the top of the tenth. Bayden Root, who had pitched incredibly the day before, was called back out of the bullpen and continued his impressive start to the season with a scoreless bottom half, closing out a 10-6 win.

Senior first baseman Conner Pohl and Zach Dezenzo each had two hits, and Pohl knocked in four runs. The Buckeyes saw a hit and RBI from Dingler, West, redshirt junior designated hitter Brent Todys, redshirt junior left fielder Scottie Seymour, and sophomore right fielder Nolan Clegg.

Errors plagued the Ohio State defense all weekend. The team made eight errors over the weekend and it led to six unearned runs scored against them. Among those errors were two from shortstop Noah West, third baseman Zach Dezenezo and second baseman Matt Carpenter.

Uncertainty loomed over who was going to play in the outfield for the Buckeyes in 2020. After the first three games, Seymour, Karaffa and Clegg started in the three outfield positions. The trio combined to go 7-34 offensively, with Clegg hitting the first Ohio State home run Sunday against Indiana State. None of the three made an error over the opening weekend.

Among other Big Ten results, no other team had a more impressive weekend than the No. 9 Michigan Wolverines. Michigan started their season with a 4-3 comeback victory over reigning College World Series champion and then No. 2 Vanderbilt. The Wolverines followed that with wins over Cal Poly and then-No. 9 Arizona State, but dropped a 7-1 contest to Connecticut.

Ohio State will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, to play their first three-game set against No. 19 Georgia Tech (2-1) this weekend.

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