The Buckeyes couldn't get a hit out of the bottom four members of the lineup, but 3-4-5 hitters Dan Burkhart, Michael Stephens and Ryan Dew staged a two-run eighth inning rally to provide the tying and winning runs in the Buckeyes' 4-3 win against in-state foe Toledo.
"The people that have come through for us all year long," head coach and 1,000-game-winner Bob Todd called them. "They walked Dan Burkhart and didn't want to pitch to him, and then Michael Stephens and Ryan Dew came through with some big base hits."
The win moved OSU (14-7) to 1-0 in Bill Davis Stadium after 20 games down south to start the season and also snapped a two-game losing streak for the Buckeyes. A crowd of 1,167 – which wasn't afraid to be vocal – was in attendance despite the matinee start, with perfect 70-degree weather surely helping the gate.
"You can't ask for a better Opening Day than this," Burkhart said. "It was nice. It was huge, and we're building up that confidence at home. We had a great turnout today as far as fans and it's obviously great to get a win for them."
Toledo took a 3-2 lead into the eighth before entering ace reliever Matt Suschak into the game. He induced the first batter, Cory Kovanda, to fly out, but Burkhart followed with a walk.
Stephens then worked the count before driving a ball off the center-field wall. However, CF Chris Dudics tracked down the ball in time to have a play on Burkhart – who ran through a late stop sign from third-base coach Pete Jenkins – but the relay throw was dropped at the plate by catcher Aaron Dudley as he tried to swipe a tag on Burkhart.
"Obviously I should have stopped there, but once I get going full-speed it's hard to put on the brakes," said Burkhart, the team's catcher. "I was shocked when he threw up the stop sign, but luckily he missed it. We'll take it."
Dew wasted little time tying the game, sending a Suschak offering through the hole on the right side to score Stephens from second without a throw.
"He gave me a third straight fastball so I just got on it and got a hit," Dew said.
The two-run outburst helped an offense held in check for most of the day by Toledo starter Cody Umbright, who gave up six hits in six innings and retired nine in a row at one point. The bottom four hitters in the Buckeye – Cory Rupert, Brian DeLucia/Chris Griffin, Brad Hallberg and Tyler Engle – lineup were a combined 0 for 13 with a walk.
"Obviously, you worry about (rust)," said Todd of his team, which hadn't played in nearly a week. "There were some hitters that I wasn't happy with their approach, and we have to address that issue. We have to get back to basics and make sure that mentally we're focused."
The other side of the coin included some solid efforts from the team's pitching staff to keep Ohio State in the game. Starter Dean Wolosiansky gave up nine hits in the first three innings but gave up only two runs on a pair of solo homers thanks to two double-play balls and a pickoff. He ended up with five innings of two-run ball.
After that, freshman Cole Brown made his Buckeye debut after offseason arm surgery, giving up a run on a sacrifice fly, before Eric Best threw two perfect innings to improve to 2-1 and Drew Rucinski closed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth.
"Wolo, I don't know how he did it," Todd said. "He kept us right in there. Eric Best did a real good job and then Drew Rucinski was in that relief role last year (as the team's setup guy)."
Wolosiansky and Rucinski will each start games as the team begins Big Ten play at Northwestern this weekend, but on this day they were up to the task of keeping the Rockets (13-9) at bat.
Burkhart gave OSU a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI double that scored Kovanda, who had singled, before Toledo's Dan Sherwood tied the score in the second with an opposite-field, wind-aided homer to left.
That description didn't fit in the third when Tim Krofcheck gave UT a 2-1 lead with a home run that flew well over the 370 mark in left. Ohio State tied in the bottom of the frame when Hurley scored on an errant pickoff throw, but Toledo again regained the lead in the sixth off of Brown when Matt Delewski's fly to center scored Joe Corfman.