Baseball: Ohio’s Offense Silent In 10-3 Loss

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It took a while for both Ohio and Northern Illinois to get their offenses going, but once the Huskies found their groove, they pulled away for a 10-3 victory over Ohio. The win also gave Northern Illinois the 2-1 edge in the series, as the Bobcats have yet to win a series this season.

The Huskie offense was silent throughout the first six innings, but the top of the lineup started to catch fire late. The first four batters went 0-for-7 in each their first two at-bats, but during the three-inning stretch where Northern Illinois had their offensive explosion, the four went a combined 6-for-8 and scored all 10 of the team’s runs.

“At one point, I looked up and we had nine hits and no runs. They had 13 hits, 10 runs. You know, that’s the difference between the two clubs right now is that they’re productive in the opportunities they have,” Ohio coach Rob Smith said. “Certainly we allowed them a lot of opportunities they took advantage of, and we did not execute when we needed to with opportunities.”

Ohio stranded nine runners in scoring position throughout the game, compared to Northern Illinois’ five. The Huskies also had success in two-out situations, scoring all four of their runs in the eighth with two outs.

The Huskies’ first sign of offense came in the top of the sixth with Jamison Wells leading off with a line drive up the middle. They then executed two straight sacrifice bunts, with Tommy Hook reaching base on his perfectly placed bunt.

Jeff Zimmerman, who was 2-for-4 with three RBIs on the day, came up with runners on second and third. In the fourth inning, the lefty hit a deep ball to right-center, but it was caught by Nick Squires. In the sixth, it was a different story, as Zimmerman pulled the ball more down the right field line for a 2-RBI single.

Landon Tenhagen and Micah McCulloch followed in the lineup with two singles to left field, with one run scoring on McCulloch’s liner off Sean Kennedy, who made his first relief appearance since March 29.

Northern Illinois loaded the bases with Brett Barber on the mound, but Barber struck out the bottom two of the order to escape the threat and keep the deficit at three.

The Huskies tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh inning, all of which were unearned. Ohio made two costly errors in the inning. The top of the Northern Illinois lineup made it difficult for the Bobcats to come back, especially with Ohio’s lack of hitting with runners in scoring position.

Despite picking up the loss, freshman Connor Sitz (1-6) continued to look solid on the mound, going 5.1 innings and allowing just five hits and three earned runs. His opponent Alex Klonowski went 7.0 innings, allowing no runs on seven hits.

“It was good to see some more growth out of (Sitz). I thought Connor did a good job,” Smith said. “If he gives us five-plus (innings) and two runs every start on Sunday, I’ll take that for the rest of the year. He was solid out there. He threw strikes. He changed speeds. He’s getting better.”

Smith has stressed continuously throughout the season to not make any mental errors in the field, and he did the same Sunday, as Ohio failed to make the “routine play.”

With Morehead State and Marshall on the upcoming midweek schedule, Smith pointed out after Sunday’s contest that he’ll use the “mix-and-match” strategy with pitching, as he’ll try different rotations on the mound.

“I’m not certain how the next two games will play out,” Smith said. “I think we’re going to have to be extremely offensive. We’re going to have to find a way to score some runs.”

After getting outscored 21-5 in the last two outings, the Bobcats will be looking towards the midweek games to reenergize their offense.

Tuesday’s game with Morehead State is their last home matchup before a nine-game road trip. First pitch is set at 4 p.m. in Bob Wren Stadium.