Ohio State baseball swept the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a three-game series Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Buckeyes (18-12, 5-4 Big Ten) won their fourth consecutive game Sunday to complete the sweep with a 4-1 win against Minnesota.
Minnesota was on an eight-game winning streak before the Buckeyes swept Minnesota, which was the first in the series since 2001. Ohio State leads the all-time series 85-84-2. Ohio State coach Greg Beals said it would be a big series against Minnesota and the key to the series would be pitching.
“The Ohio State Minnesota baseball rivalry is as strong as any Big Ten rivalry in any sport,” Beals said before the team’s practice Wednesday morning. “Minnesota is going to pitch. They’re going to pitch very well. But I also think we can pitch equally well against them. I see it being more of a pitcher’s
Ohio State beat Minnesota Friday night with a 2-1 win. The starting pitcher, sophomore Jaron Long, went eight innings allowing three hits and one run while striking out eight. Long was matched against Minnesota’s ace, junior pitcher TJ Oakes, who also pitched eight innings, but allowed two runs on five hits and struck out nine. After the game, Long said he doesn’t change the way he pitches while facing the other team’s best pitcher.
“It’s not anything different, it’s still the same game,” Long said. “I just try to go out there and not give up any runs. There are some times when we’re going to jump on their guy and other times when we’re going to have to scratch and claw like tonight.”
Ohio State allowed five runs to Minnesota the entire series. The Buckeyes won 5-3 Saturday afternoon led by junior left-hander Brian King. King pitched seven innings allowing three runs on seven hits with no walks. The Sunday win was won by redshirt sophomore pitcher John Kuchno. Kuchno went six innings and allowed one hit and one walk while tying his season high with six strikeouts.
One of the big plays in the Sunday win was when freshman left-fielder Pat Porter threw out Minnesota’s freshman shortstop Michael Handel at the plate. Beals said it was the play of the game. Porter said he was surprised when Handel tried to score because he also threw out a Golden Gopher at the plate in Saturday’s game.
“I was surprised the second time,” Porter said. “I fielded it cleanly and heard (Minnesota’s third base coach) say ‘go’ and I thought, ‘All right, I’m about to just hose him now.’”
After the win Sunday, Ohio State improved to 14-0 in games when leading after the seventh inning, a stat Beals said he is proud of, but wasn’t aware of.
“That’s a great stat; don’t tell anyone that,” Beals said before laughing. “We put a lot of emphasis in our bullpen and our guys out there know I have a lot of confidence in them.”