CLEARWATER, Fla. – Ohio State broke open a tight game with three runs in the eighth inning to build a 6-0 lead and then held on to defeat UConn, 6-4, Saturday at Jack Russell Stadium. Ohio State is 2-0 in the BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge while UConn drops to 0-2.
Heroes for the Buckeyes were sophomore pitcher Andrew Armstrong and juniors Brian DeLucia and Zach Hurley.
Armstrong pitched a career-long 6.2 innings and didn’t allow a run while scattering three hits, striking out five and walking two. He allowed just five batters to reach base and only one runner reached second before giving way to Jake Hale in the seventh inning and Ohio State leading 2-0.
DeLucia’s two-run double in the sixth inning put the first runs on the scoreboard and Hurley’s bases-clearing triple in the eighth extended Ohio State’s lead to 6-0, a margin they would need because the pesky Huskies chipped away with three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to close the gap to within two. UConn had two men on in the ninth with the winning run at the plate, but junior Eric Best struck out Pierre LePage to end the game.
“Today the intensity was there and there were a lot of good things about this game, but we were still a little flat,” head coach Bob Todd said. “Something was missing. We were coming off a long day yesterday and a long delay today, but that’s baseball. We have to adjust to that stuff, especially the hitters.”
Armstrong was simply terrific. Like sophomore classmates Alex Wimmers and Drew Rucinski’s combined shutout Friday over Notre Dame, Armstrong was in complete command on the mound, and he needed to be because the Buckeyes weren’t scoring and it was anyone’s game. Armstrong faced just one batter over the minimum through five innings.
While UConn wasn’t getting any opportunities, the Buckeyes loaded the bases in the third inning but couldn’t score. Ryan Dew led off with a single to right and with one out Hurley reached on an infield single that caromed off pitcher Elliott Glynn’s lower right leg. Michael Arp reached on another infield single, but the inning ended when Glynn got Michael Stephens to ground out to third.
The Buckeyes, stranded runners in every inning form the third on, finally were able to score in the sixth. Cory Rupert singled with one out and, with the hit-and-run on, Dew chopped a single over the first baseman’s head that advanced Rupert to third. Dew advanced to second on a wild pitch and DeLucia plated both runners by ripping a double down the left field line for a 2-0 lead.
Armstrong was replaced with two on and two out in the seventh inning by Jake Hale. Seeing his first action of the season and his first relief action since the 2007 season, Hale got Doug Elliott to fly out deep to right field to end the inning with Ohio State hanging on to a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the eighth, Ohio State scored four times for a 6-0 lead. Rupert led off with a single, Dew walked and DeLucia was hit by a pitch. Hurley sent the first pitch he faced from reliever David Jennings and drove it over the center fielder’s head to score all three runners. Hurley later scored on a Cory Kovanda sacrifice fly.
Best, coming off a fine, eight-save sophomore season, relieved Hale in the eighth after the first two batters reached via walks. Best, in his first outing of 2009, was able to get the last six outs of the game, including three by strikeout, to preserve the win, although the Huskies did make it interesting.
The first spring trip of the 2009 season for Ohio State will conclude Sunday at 10 a.m. with a game against Cincinnati at Red McEwen Field on the campus of the University of South Florida. The two teams have played 86 times on the diamond, but this will be the first game since the 2003 season.
Sophomore Andrew Armstrong pitches 6.2 shutout innings