Wow! Ohio State was never in this game as Northwestern built an 8-0 lead in the first two innings and cruised to a 14-8 victory to clinch a series split with the Bucks, which fell to 22-18 overall and 10-9 in the Big Ten (Box Score).
The Wildcats scored their first eight runs off Andrew Armstrong who was making an emergency start today in place of the injured J.B. Shuck. The OSU news release on Saturday said Shuck came out of the third game of the series to rest his leg. Today's release said the coaching staff rested him because of a sore hamstring. Armstrong lasted 1.2 innings and allowed the eight runs (just four earned) on four hits. He walked three and struck out one in falling to 3-3. Once he left the game, the Buckeyes went with Alex Wimmers, Josh Edgin, Eric Best and Jared Strayer.
Ohio State finally got on board in the fourth and scored in four of the final five innings, getting three in the fifth and two in the seventh. Northwestern answered with its ninth run in the bottom of the fourth and scored five over the seventh and eighth innings.
It was an ugly game defensively. Ohio State committed six errors while the 'Cats committed three. Buckeye pitchers walked eight and Northwestern pitches issued 11 free passes, including seven by its third pitcher of the game. The Bucks did manage nine hits to 11 by Northwestern.
Tony Kennedy was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored while Ryan Meade was 3-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored. Cory Kovanda drove in two. Three different Wildcats had two hits. What a week by Kennedy. In the four games in Evanston, he was 11-for-17, good enough for a .647 batting average. He drove in three and scored eight. Throw in the two games against Akron and he batted 15-for-25 (.600) with five RBI and 11 runs scored. Not too shabby.
The Buckeyes remain in fourth place in the league standings behind Michigan, Purdue and Illinois. Overall, was it crucial to win the series? No, probably not, but it certainly would have been nice. Considering next week's series in Ann Arbor, wins will be hard to come by. The next week Ohio State hosts Illinois, another team it trails in the standings. Then it is off to Iowa to close out the season.
The Buckeye Nine threw in the towel for a regular season championship after last weekend's dismal effort vs. Purdue. Now, second place is more than likely out of reach. The goal now is to play well enough to be one of the top six seeds that will play in the league tournament. This team is much different without Shuck on the hill. Let's just get healthy.