Buckeyes Sweep Gophers, Take Third Game 4-1
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a series filled with stellar starting pitching for the Buckeyes, starter John Kuchno capped the weekend by tossing six innings of one-hit ball, allowing just two baserunners and not giving up a single run to get the win for Ohio State.
"'Kuch' has got really good stuff, and I thought he was dominating," coach Greg Beals said. "If you tell me we're gonna get six innings, one hit and no runs out of Kuchno, that's a heck of a day, and that's what it was. He put our team in a position to win."
The Buckeyes move to 18-12 on the season, and 5-4 in Big Ten play. The Gophers (17-16, 3-3) suffered their first three Big Ten losses of the season this weekend.
The teams traded quick innings early on as neither side could muster up any type of offense. In the second and fourth innings, the Buckeyes had a pair of hits in each inning, but couldn't manage to bring anybody home to score.
The Gophers didn't even record their first base hit until the fifth inning when right fielder Bobby Juan laced a shot into left field.
After retiring the side in order in the top of the sixth inning, the Buckeyes finally scratched a pair of runs across the plate in the bottom half of the inning.
Third baseman Brad Hallberg led the inning off with a walk, then advanced to second on a Josh Dezse single. Left fielder Pat Porter then bunted them both over.
Right fielder David Corna grounded out to third, scoring Hallberg. DH Mike Carroll then singled up the middle, bringing home Dezse to score in a close play at the plate.
Andrew Armstrong came into the game to start the seventh inning, relieving Kuchno after six innings of nearly flawless baseball.
"It looked like his last inning he started coming up in the zone," Beals said, explaining his decision to remove Kuchno. "His fastball was up in the zone and he missed his breaking ball up in the zone. He had gotten to his pitch count. We got six strong out of him, so it was time to go to that bullpen and let them do what they do."
What that bullpen ended up doing was provide the makings for a possible Minnesota rally.
After striking out his first batter, Armstrong then gave up a single and a walk. He struck out Bobby Juan, and was then replaced by David Fathalikhani.
Fathalikhani immediately gave up a single to shortstop Michael Handel, which scored a run. DH David Bettenburg then came up and singled as well, but Porter gunned down Matt Puhl at the plate to end the inning. It was the second time in as many games the freshman had thrown a runner out at home.
"I was surprised because I fielded it cleanly," Porter said of Minnesota's decision to run on him. "And then I heard them yell 'Go!', so I was like, 'Alright, I'm about to hose him now.'"
"To me, that was the play of the game," Beals said. "That stopped the momentum and put it back into our court. We then scored two runs the next half inning."
That next half inning saw Tim Wetzel hit a 2-2 slider over the right field wall for his second homerun of the season, giving the Buckeyes a 3-1 lead.
"I've got a little bit of pull juice," Wetzel explained. "And if I can get the right pitch to do it and actually stay through the ball and lift it into the air, it's got a chance. It was actually a pretty good pitch, so I don't really know how I did it. I just reacted."
Second baseman Ryan Cypret followed that with a double, then advanced to third on a fielding error. After Hallberg walked Dezse hit a liner that was caught by the shortstop.
Porter then came to the plate and blooped one into left field that landed in no-man's land between the outfielder and infielders, scoring Cypret in the process to make it 4-1 Ohio State.
"I got a hold of that one," Porter joked. "I saw it up there and thought that I better run just in case. I saw it up, and then I saw them all come together, so I knew that wasn't going to be good, so I turned it on and rounded first."
That was more than enough scoring for the Buckeyes on the day, as Fathalikhani and Greg Greve pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings for the Buckeyes. Ohio State moved to 14-0 on the season when they have the lead after seven innings. Greve got his first save of the year.
Kuchno, in his first career Big Ten start, got the win, moving to 5-1 on the season. He admitted after the game that he had some definite butterflies coming into this game.
"I was very nervous, but was able to settle in pretty nicely," he said. "I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself, and I'm just glad that I could help the team win more than anything."
"Our guys played really well and they played really hard," Beals said. "They played the way we've been striving to play all year long. You're starting to see the identity of this ballclub come out."
The win is the fourth in a row for the Buckeyes, who are three games into a ten-game homestand. The chance to continue moving up in the Big Ten standings is on their doorstep, and Beals likes what he's seeing from his team right now.
"More than a winning streak, it's those guys in that locker room learning how to win, and having confidence that they can win. And they can win different types of games. It's good that they know that they can win in different ways."
Up next for the Buckeyes is a pair of midweek home games against Ohio and Akron on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games start at 6:35 pm.
Nebraska comes to Columbus next weekend, which should be a very good battle between two programs looking to stay on the top side of the conference ledger.
- The Buckeyes are now 14-0 when leading after seven innings.
- Dezse has reached base safely in 29 of 30 contests this season.
- Porter threw out a runner at the plate for the second consecutive game.
- Porter extended his hitting streak to five games.
- Ohio State head coach Greg Beals is now 6-2 against Minnesota in his two seasons at the helm of the Buckeyes.
- Taking out the game at Louisville, Kuchno has allowed seven earned runs in 32.2 innings pitched for a 1.93 ERA.
- The win for Ohio State clinched the Buckeyes first series sweep vs. the Gophers since 2001.
- The game marked the 10th time this season Ohio State has recorded 10 or more hits.
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