Gaertner, Ohio Baseball Outscore Northern Iliinois, 5-4

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The Ohio Bobcats' baseball team won the first game of its three-game series with Northern Illinois.

It was a back-and-forth game right from the start with both teams scoring two runs in the third inning.

NIU (14-21, 9-4 MAC) scored first on an RBI single by Jamison Wells, followed by an RBI double by Tommy Hook to take a 2-0 lead.

Ohio (9-26, 5-8 MAC) would answer in the bottom of the inning. After a Ben Otto walk, catcher Cody Gaertner hit a two-run home run over the wall in right-center field to tie the game at two.

“(Gaertner’s) home run was big in the sense that they scored those two runs and to come back out and tie the game up quickly,” Ohio coach Rob Smith said. “I think showed our team that we were in the game and we were going to have a chance to win it.”

In the fourth, Ohio had a big chance to score by loading the bases with no outs but could only manage one run on a sacrifice fly by Otto.

NIU’s Nate Ruzich had an RBI single in the sixth inning after a walk and a single, but Gaertner threw out Ruzich at first on a pickoff attempt to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Bobcats again loaded the bases, this time with one out, and scored two runs on a sacrifice fly by Gaertner, followed by an RBI single by Jake Madsen.

“We had a lot more opportunities to score a lot more runs. I thought we should have put more runs on the board than we did,” Smith said.

In the seventh, Ohio starter Jake Miller (2-4) got into trouble after a walk led to another NIU run when Alex Klonowski doubled to bring a runner in and make it 5-4.

Coach Smith brought in reliever Brett Barber to finish the seventh, and he closed out the rest of the game.

“From here on out (Barber) is the first man out of the bullpen. We’re going to sell out for wins each game we get an opportunity to do that,” Smith said.

Miller got the win, going 6.2 innings, and allowed four runs and seven hits with four walks.

NIU starter Jordan Ruckman got the loss in 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and four earned runs.

Ohio and Northern Illinois will play game two Saturday at 3 p.m.