All season long, Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals has talked about his team’s ability to fight and scrap its way back from tough situations.
The most recent example of that came Wednesday night. One day after losing an embarrassing 16-3 final to No. 19 Oklahoma State, the Buckeyes battled back from a 2-0 deficit to post a 3-2 win against the Pokes at Bill Davis Stadium.
“Oh man, I tell you, give our guys a lot of credit for bouncing back,” Beals said. “They showed a lot of gumption. They showed a lot of competitiveness after last night’s game to come back and play as good as we played tonight.”
Cleanup man Josh Dezse and senior third baseman Matt Streng had back-to-back RBI groundouts in the seventh to tie the score, while No. 3 hitter Ryan Cypret lofted a sacrifice fly in the eighth to provide the winning run.
On the hill, Ohio State (22-22) was excellent, keeping the Cowboys – who entered averaging 6.2 runs – to only seven hits. Freshman John Kuchno had by far the best outing of his OSU career, going five innings and giving up one run, while Dezse closed things out with three strikeouts in the ninth while reaching 100 mph on the radar gun.
“The storyline was our pitching staff pitching on the bottom of the strike zone,” Beals said. “John Kuchno’s start is exactly what we were looking for. That’s the potential we saw in John. Hopefully he can build on that. He’s got a bright future ahead of him if he keeps pitching like that.”
Kuchno came in at 1-4 with a 7.62 ERA in nine appearances, but he worked out of a first-inning jam and was solid from there. Oklahoma State’s Zach Johnson doubled in a run three batters into the game to give the Cowboys a 1-0 lead, but Kuchno got the next two to short-circuit the rally.
From there, he was on his game, allowing only two more hits and a walk along with three strikeouts.
Freshman Greg Greve – OSU’s Sunday starter who was getting some work in – gave up back-to-back doubles to Johnson and Jared Womack as Oklahoma State (32-16) doubled the lead in the sixth, but that was all the Cowboys could get as Jared Strayer, Andrew Armstrong (2-0) and Dezse allowed no runs on one hit the rest of the way.
It looked like the pitching performance would be all for naught, though, as Ohio State had only one hit off Cowboys starter Jason Hursh through six innings. However, he gave up a leadoff single to Tim Wetzel in the seventh, leading Oklahoma State to summon Randy McCurry from the bullpen.
However, Cypret greeted the reliever with a single to right and moved to second on an error by right fielder Luis Uribe, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Dezse followed with a sharp groundout to second to score Wetzel and Streng softly bounced one to first to bring home Cypret.
Chris Marlowe walked OSU first baseman Brad Hallberg to lead off the eighth before giving way to Gabe Weidenaar. Tyler Engle sacrificed pinch-runner Joey Ciamacco to second, then Brian DeLucia walked and Wetzel laced a single to right to load the bases with one away.
That brought up Cypret, perhaps OSU’s best situational hitter, and he sent a slider deep enough to center to bring home the winning run.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” Streng said. “The middle of the order has been seeing the ball really well. You have to credit the guys in front of us for getting on base. Their job is to get on base, our job is to drive them in. We came up in those situations and we were able to get the job done tonight.”
The ninth was electric thanks to Dezse, who reached triple digits while striking out Womack, the Pokes’ cleanup hitter, to start the inning. Davis Duren followed with a single but Dezse struck out Mark Ginther and Weidenaar to close the game and earn his third save.
“It’s nice to have a closer,” Beals said. “From the start of the season to now, he has matured on the mound. The ability was always there but now the confidence and the comfort is there. He’s taking the game to people now.”
Ohio State, which is tied for third in the Big Ten, continues league play this weekend with a three-game set Friday through Sunday against Iowa in Bill Davis Stadium.
“After last night, another bad game tonight would have been detrimental moving into the weekend,” Beals said. “It was big for our team to play really good, clean game of baseball.”