Pitching Slips, Ohio Loses To Buffalo 6-1

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The last place Ohio Bobcats (11-32, 6-13 MAC) fell on the road to the Buffalo Bulls (26-17, 15-4 MAC) Friday losing 6-1. The team struggled on the mound, giving up five runs in the final three innings.

Ohio struck early going up 1-0 in the top of the second inning. Tyler Wells, who has seen his spot in the batting order slip all the way to No. 7 amid an offensive slump, was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a failed pickoff by Buffalo starting pitcher Mike McGee (5-3).  Nate Squires drove him in on a single down the left field line to give Ohio the early 1-0 lead.

The Bulls threatened to break the game open in the bottom of the third when Ohio starter Jake Miller coughed up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. A sacrifice groundout advanced both into scoring position and after forcing a pop-out to give Buffalo two outs on the inning, Miller hit Bulls first baseman Alex Baldock, loading the bases. But the freshman ace, making his NCAA leading 15th start on the season, struck out designated hitter Tyler Mautner to end the inning, unscathed.

Still up 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Miller walked catcher Kyle Figgins to start the inning. A groundout and fly out allowed Figgins to reach third base and Miller gave up a single between the shortstop and third baseman to tie the game up 1-1 before forcing a pop-out to end the inning.

Miller struck out the side in the fifth, but walked Figgins for a second time to start off the sixth and was replaced by Brett Barber with no outs and tied 1-1.  Barber has been arguably the ‘Cats’ best reliever all year, but after forcing two straight groundouts he walked the next three batters to bring in a run. With the bases still loaded, Barber tossed a wild pitch, bringing in another Buffalo run increasing the Bulls’ lead to 3-1.

Unable to get anything going in the top half of the seventh, Ohio struggled to stop the Bulls from running away with the game. Barber gave up a leadoff double to Baldock and hit the next batter, putting two on with no outs. A sacrifice groundout by Figgins moved the runners into scoring position and forced Ohio head coach Rob Smith to turn to Logan Cozart in relief. Cozart forced a groundout and gave up a double down the right field line to increase Bufffalo’s lead to 4-1.  Smith turned to his third pitcher of the inning with two outs, bringing in Ryan Ferrell. The right-hander forced a line-out to end the inning.

Buffalo tacked on another run in the bottom of the eighth to bring the score to 6-1. With just two outs to go and down five runs, Ohio second baseman Nate Squires singled to center field in the ninth. Pinch hitter Brice Nikithser slapped a grounder up the middle forcing a fielder’s choice at second. With one on and two outs, Ohio catcher Cody Gaertner lined out to third to end the inning.

Miller was pegged with the loss and finished the game with five strikeouts, four walks and two earned runs in five innings pitched.  Ohio’s conference slipped to 6-13, keeping the Bobcats dead last in the Mid-American Conference. With just eight MAC games left in the season, Ohio will likely have to win out for any shot at a MAC Tournament berth. The ‘Cats resume their series with Buffalo tomorrow at 1 p.m.