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Swisher has big night to honor a fellow Buckeye

Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees rounds

Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. (July 16, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

As Joe Girardi left the field after the Yankees' 5-4 walk-off victory over the Rays, the Yankees' manager found it fitting that someone with Ohio State ties produced the winning hit.

Hours after the Yankees honored George Steinbrenner with a touching pregame tribute, Nick Swisher - who was born in Columbus, Ohio, and played baseball for Ohio State - hit a tying home run in the eighth inning and drove in the winning run with a two-out single in the ninth.

The Yankees won seven world championships during the time Steinbrenner owned the team, but The Boss always had room on his finger in recent years to wear his prized Ohio State championship ring. "He loved his Yankees and he loved his Buckeyes," Girardi said, "and a Buckeye got it."

Swisher said he met Steinbrenner only twice and never had the opportunity to discuss their shared love of Ohio State. He even bumped into Steinbrenner at a restaurant near Ohio State during his college days, but the usually loquacious Swisher couldn't bring himself to approach the famous owner.

"I was too scared to say hi," Swisher said.

He clearly was happy to play a leading role on this day, one that surely will remembered for a long time in Yankees history.

"I think pretty much the agenda today was to win," Swisher said. "That's what Mr. Steinbrenner would have wanted us to do. From all the people I talked to - Jeter, Posada and those guys - that's all he ever wanted to do. So on a day like this where we're celebrating his life, got to take him out on a W."

And in going 3-for-5 with three RBIs, Swisher had a big part in making that happen.

Leading off the eighth inning, Swisher turned on a 2-and-1 fastball clocked at 95 mph from righthander Joaquin Benoit and deposited it into the second deck in rightfield, tying the score at 4.

Making it all the more impressive is that Benoit has been nearly unhittable this season. Coming into the game, the righthander had given up 10 hits in 272/3 innings and struck out 40.

With runners on first and second and two outs in the ninth, Swisher lined a 2-and-1 slider into rightfield. The speedy Curtis Granderson touched the plate with his left hand just as catcher Kelly Shoppach dropped the throw. Swisher watched all that unfold as he ran to first and rounded the bag. Then he ran all the way into rightfield to celebrate a winning finish to an emotional evening. "Today," he said, "was Mr. Steinbrenner's day."

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