Buckeyes Fall To Loser's Bracket

Ohio State's road to a Big Ten baseball tournament championship just got a whole lot tougher. The No. 23 Buckeyes were outclassed 13-3 by third-seeded Indiana on Friday night in Huntington Park, putting OSU into the losers bracket of the tournament. The regular-season champs face second-place Minnesota on Saturday afternoon at 3:35.

For an No. 23 Ohio State baseball team that is unquestionably thin on pitching, the plan to win the inaugural Big Ten tournament at Huntington Park was to stay in the winners bracket through the first two games and then take their chances needing just one win in a pair of games in the championship series.

Consider the apple cart disrupted, then.

The Buckeyes were blown out of Game 8 of the tournament in front of a three-game crowd of 4,019 that left far before the final out. After OSU (40-16) took a 2-0 lead, Indiana plated three runs in the fourth and seven in the fifth on the way to a 13-3 win.

The third-seeded Hoosiers (31-25) move into the championship series, while Ohio State falls into the losers bracket needing two wins on Saturday to stay alive. The regular-season champion Buckeyes face No. 2 Minnesota tomorrow at 3:35 p.m., and they'll have to improve immensely in less than 24 hours after being outhit 16-6 and committing three errors.

"This game of baseball never ceases to amaze," head coach Bob Todd said. "I'm not sure there's much that I can positively talk about our ballclub tonight with what we did. I really was not happy with the way we swung the bats. I was not happy with the way we played defensively. Obviously the way we pitched was not very good."

Junior Eric Best (7-3, 5.35) will go in Game 9 tomorrow afternoon. Todd said he hadn't thought about who would play in Game 10 in the evening if the Buckeyes advance past the Golden Gophers and into the championship series against the Hoosiers.

Best hopefully won't have taken notes from Friday night's starter Dean Wolosiansky. A consistent 11-1 entering the game, Wolosiansky blew up in the middle innings on the way to allowing 12 hits and eight runs in four-plus innings.

The Hoosiers batted around in both the fourth and the fifth. Both rallies were started by the heart of the Indiana order and No. 2 hitter Jerrud Sabourin (who entered hitting .348), No. 3 hitter Josh Phegley (.346, 17 HR, 65 RBI) and cleanup batter Alex Dickerson (.369, 14 HR, 55 RBI).

Sabourin singled to start the fourth and then Phegley doubled, both coming around the score as well as No. 5 hitter Kipp Schutz. Schutz, Dickerson (who singled before being retired on Schutz's fielder's choice) and Jake Dunning all had RBI to make it 3-2.

The first seven batters in the fifth scored. The first five – four of whom were ahead in the count – all singled off of Wolosiansky. Jared Strayer entered in relief and hit a batter before allowing a bases-clearing triple to shortstop and No. 8 hitter Tyler Rogers.

"The good thing about this lineup is you have to work from top to bottom as an opposing pitcher," IU head coach Tracy Smith said. "One through nine can get you. If the middle of the order, if those guys are getting after it like they have been lately, I think we're going to score some runs."

Rogers and Dickerson both finished with three hits while Sabourin, Phegley, Schutz and Dunning each had two. Rogers led the RBI parade with four; Dickerson, Schutz, Dunning and Brian Lambert all had two apiece.

While Wolosiansky was falling apart, Indiana freshman starter Blake Monar was consistent in improving to 5-3. Monar went 6.2 innings, allowing five hits, five walks and three runs (two earned) while striking out four.

He gave up an RBI single to Big Ten Player of the Year Dan Burkhart in the first and then threw away a bunt attempt in the second that allowed OSU captain Justin Miller to score, but he settled down after that. His biggest Houdini act came in the fifth after the Hoosiers had taken a 3-2 lead when he got out of a bases-loaded jam by coaxing Cory Kovanda into a double play and then getting Michael Stephens to fly out to right.

"I really felt that turned the momentum around," Todd said. "The next half-inning we could just not stop the bleeding. They get seven runs and take the doubt of the outcome completely out of it."

With Friday night completed, the teams turned their focuses in different directions.

"Anything is possible in baseball," Todd said. "Two weeks ago people left us for dead. They didn't think there was any chance (we could win the regular season). They battled and competed and maybe overachieved the last couple of weeks."

Meanwhile, Smith's team is 3-0 so far in the event having outscored its opponents 34-7.

"We're taking nothing for granted," he said as the Hoosiers chase their first tourney title since 1996. "I'm excited the guys are confident, they're on a roll, but this game can change in a hurry. That's why we love it so much and that's why we hate it so much."

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