Ohio Baseball Gains Momentum In Eastern Kentucky Win

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Everything seemed to click for the Bobcats (7-24) Wednesday night, as the team downed Eastern Kentucky, 10-3, on the night. Ohio’s offense exploded to the tune of 10 runs on 15 hits and the bullpen held the Colonels’ offense stagnant for most of the night.

After giving up a combined 35 runs in the past two home midweek contests, Ohio’s six pitchers on the night combined to give up just three runs on eight hits.

“I thought that we played a good game tonight. This was certainly the best midweek game I think we’ve played for the most part,” said Ohio head coach Rob Smith after the game. “Guys came out, played with good energy, played hard … finally we got a good effort on the mound, a clean effort on the mound.”

Smith added that gaining the early lead helped his group of relievers shut down the Colonels offense and said that the offensive output was key to the team’s success on the mound Wednesday night.

The ‘Cats offense wasted no time getting to work, striking quickly on Eastern Kentucky starter Cameron Longfels (0-3), who picked up the loss despite not making it out of the first inning. He walked Nick Squires to lead off the bottom of the first, allowing the Ohio freshman to advance to second on a wild pitch. An error by the shortstop allowed J.R. Reynolds to reach base safely. A grounder by Jake Madsen advanced the runners and Tyler Wells drove in Squires on a sacrifice fly, notching his fist of two RBI on the day. After Gaertner drew a walk, Langfels was pulled in favor of right-hander Eric Nerl. Dan Schmidt slapped a single down the third base line to drive in Reynolds, putting the ‘Cats up 2-0 at the end of the first.

Ohio starter Brett Barber (1-3) picked up the win despite being pulled with one out in the top of the second after walking Colonels left fielder Kyle Nowlin. The ‘Cats turned to Ryan Ferrell for relief after just 1.1 innings from Barber. Ferrell entered the game and recorded a first pitch fly out to center but gave up a single to the Colonels’ shortstop, Matt Phipps. The Colonels then pulled off a double steal, putting both runners in scoring position. Ferrell walked Steve Ferraro to load the bases. A snag at the left field wall by Wells ended the inning.

“We started Brett Barber who typically has been our closer,” Smith added after the game. “We had to put up a couple of zeroes.”

The ‘Cats offense struck again in the bottom of the third, running through three Eastern Kentucky pitchers in the process. Nerl was on the mound and hit Reynolds to lead off the inning. Madsen, who finished with three hits and two RBIs, slapped a double into right field the following pitch, bringing up Wells with runners in scoring position and no outs. Wells hit his second sacrifice fly of the game to the center field wall, bringing in Reynolds. Gaertner, who also had a big night offensively, slapped a double off the center field wall to bring in Madsen and increase Ohio’s lead to four. The sophomore catcher finished the night with three RBI on three hits and improved his batting average to .309.

The Colonels pulled Nerl for right-hander Austin Rexroat. Gaertner advanced to third on a wild pitch and Schmidt shot a single into center to bring in Gaertner, knocking in his first of three RBIs on the night. After Schmidt was picked off at first, Brice Nikithser drew a walk, and John Adryan shot a single into center to put two on with two outs for Ben Otto. Otto slapped a blooper into left field to bring in a runner, knocking Rexroat out of the game. With Ohio up, 7-0, Eastern Kentucky brought in left-hander Nick Bozman, who finally stopped the bleeding and got out of the inning unscathed.

Not willing to go down without a fight, the Colonels struck back in the top of the fourth. Shaun Ball led off the inning with a double to the right field wall and pinch hitter Alex Hughes ended the Bobcats’ shutout with a double to center, driving in Ball. Phipps followed up with a single, bringing in Hughes. Unable to qualm the Colonels’ offense after giving up a stolen base to Phipps, Smith took to the mound to try and calm his reliever down. But an error by Schmidt, his 16th on the season, on a grounder by Colonels centerfielder Austin allowed Phipps to cross the plate, cutting Ohio’s lead to 7-3.

In the top of the fifth, Ferrell was replaced by Nick Plys, marking the third ‘Cats pitcher on the night. The sophomore right-hander gave up a leadoff single to Sean Hagen but was able to induce the 6-4-3 double play before getting out of the inning unharmed.

Smith said the solid outing from his bullpen was paramount to the team’s victory.

“All 27 outs we were going to get had to be from the bullpen … those guys had to come out and throw strikes and they did a good job of that. It put us in a position to win the game,” Smith said.

In the bottom of the sixth, Eastern Kentucky brought in Matt Lynch to pitch, marking the sixth Colonels pitcher on the night. Madsen lined a single into shallow left-center with one out and Wells followed up with a single to the same spot, advancing to second on a wild throw to third by Grisham. Gaertner stepped to the plate with two runners in scoring position and grounded a hard hit single past the shortstop, driving in both and advancing to second when the left fielder bobbled the ball. Lynch was called for a balk allowing Gaertner to advance to third, but the Ohio catcher was caught in a rundown on a fielder’s choice by Schmidt. A swinging strikeout by Nikithser ended the inning, leaving Ohio up 9-3 after six innings.

Ohio added on a final run in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by Schmidt, bringing in Wells. Ohio right-hander Logan Cozart took the mound to finish things off in the top of the ninth, shutting the Colonels down and sealing the Bobcat victory.

Despite not having an impact on the team’s standings in the Mid-American Conference, Smith thought the win was huge for the team, which has struggled to find consistency all season.

“We had to get some momentum,” Smith said. “The last couple of weekends, heading into conference play we’ve not had a great feeling after our midweek effort, and I think it’s made it tougher for us to get going on the weekends.”

Ohio opens a three game home stand against the Akron Zips (6-24, 3-6) Friday night at 6 p.m.

Ohio, who is also 3-6 in the MAC, needed to gain some momentum heading into the series if they hope to win more than one game, according to Madsen.

“This game is all about momentum and if you’re playing good … we can trust ourselves,” he said. “It’s just a big confidence booster.”