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Ohio Baseball senior Treyben Funderburg swings at a pitch during the Bobcats' game against Bowling Green on March 21, 2021 at Bob Wren Stadium. (PHOTO: Nick Viland/WOUB)
Ohio Baseball senior Treyben Funderburg swings at a pitch during the Bobcats’ game against Bowling Green on March 21, 2021 at Bob Wren Stadium. (PHOTO: Nick Viland/WOUB)

Ohio Baseball: Bobcats Finish Home Schedule with Series Split against Ball State

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Athens and Bob Wren Stadium has been friendly to the Bobcats this season.  Ohio entered this past weekend with a 17-8 record at The Wren and wrapped up its 2021 home schedule with a four-game weekend series with Ball State.

While Ohio’s chances of winning the MAC disappeared after a series loss at Akron, the Bobcats were attempting to play “spoiler” as the Cardinals came in as the second-place team in the MAC standings.

After a rocky start to the weekend, Ohio (27-22, 18-18 MAC) got back on track in games three and four of the series to force a series split with Ball State (34-18, 25-11).

Game One: Ball State 4, Ohio 3: 

Ohio junior Joe Rock throws a pitch during the Bobcats’ game against Morehead State on February 26, 2021. (PHOTO: Nick Viland/WOUB)

As usual, Ohio sent its ace Joe Rock out for the start on Friday and, despite facing some issues in the second and seventh innings, Rock turned in another quality outing for the Bobcats.

In 6 2/3 innings of work, Rock (8-3, 2.29 ERA) allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on five hits while striking out ten batters.  Friday could have been Rock’s final start at Bob Wren Stadium as he currently sits as the No. 75 MLB Draft prospect for this summer’s amateur draft.

Ball State got on the scoreboard in the second after Rock uncorked a wild pitch.  The Cardinals later added two more runs in the seventh inning off a sac-fly and a throwing error.

Ball State’s starting pitcher John Baker shut down the Bobcats’ offense through the first six innings, but two runs finally crossed the plate for Ohio in the seventh.

The Bobcats’ first run came thanks to an Isaiah Peterson sacrifice fly to left field to bring home Trevor Lukkes.  Later on in the inning, Trevor Hafner picked up an RBI single to bring home Joe Weisenseel, bringing the score to 3-2.

Baker (7-3, 2.45 ERA) was outstanding for the Cardinals in his seven innings of work, allowing just two runs despite giving up nine hits.

Colin Sells relieved Rock in the seventh inning and attempted to keep the game within one run in the eighth, but the Cardinals added some insurance as Ryan Peltier brought home Nick Powell to increase the lead to two.

Spencer Harbert hammered his eighth homer of the season over the wall in centerfield in the bottom of the eighth, but that was as close as Ohio came.

Game one belonged to the Cardinals.

Game Two: Ball State 9, Ohio 2:

The Bobcats and Cardinals returned to the ballpark on Saturday for two seven-inning games.

The front of end the twin bill was a forgettable one for Ohio.

After a scoreless first inning, the Cardinals got on the scoreboard in the second inning as Aaron Simpson tripled into the right center field gap to score the first run of the ballgame.  Decker Scheffler later doubled home Simpson to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom half of the inning, Harbert got a hold of another ball for a two-run dinger and his ninth homer of the season, evening things up at two.

Those two runs were all the Bobcats scored.

Chayce McDermott (8-2, 3.29 ERA), the No. 120 MLB Draft prospect, pitched a complete game for Ball State, allowing just two runs and three hits while fanning 13 batters.

Braxton Kelly got the start for the Bobcats and looked pretty good through the first four innings, surrendering just those runs in the second.  The Cardinals’ bats finally came alive starting in the fifth.  Powell hit a go-ahead homer to put Ball State ahead.

In the sixth, the Cardinals exploded for four more runs, ending Kelly’s (1-4, 7.80 ERA) day, who was relieved in the sixth after allowing six runs off nine hits.

After adding two additional runs in the seventh, Ball State secured first game of the day.  The good news for Ohio was there was a second game just 40 minutes later on Saturday.

Game Three: Ohio 5, Ball State 1:

Edward Kutt III throws a pitch vs Central Michigan
Edward Kutt IV throws a pitch against Central Michigan on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (PHOTO: Bryan Kurp/WOUB)

Edward Kutt IV has been impressive for the Bobcats pretty much all season long, especially as a starter.  Kutt got his fourth start of the season in the second game on Saturday and cooled off the Ball State bats that dominated the first game of the day.

Kutt (8-4, 2.91 ERA) pitched a complete seven inning and allowed one run, which was unearned, on just three hits with six strikeouts.  The only run Kutt allowed came in the final inning.

Harry Witwer-Dukes opened up the scoring for Ohio in the third with a line drive solo homerun to right field.

Ohio busted the game open in the fourth inning with three more runs.

Ball State starter Lukas Jaksich walked home Alex Finney to expand the lead to two runs.  After Trevor Lukkes scored on a wild pitch, Joe Weisenseel hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the third run of the inning, making it 4-0.

Michael Richardson singled in the sixth to bring home the fifth run of the ball game, all but securing a win for the Bobcats.

Game Four: Ohio 9, Ball State 7:

Ohio celebrated its seniors prior to Sunday’s series finale.  In their final home game at Bob Wren Stadium, many of the seniors stood out to lead the Bobcats to a series split.

Chace Harris, one of those seniors, got the start for the Bobcats.  Despite allowing two runs in the fourth inning, Harris got through four innings allowing just three hits and five strikeouts.

Ohio drew first blood in the second inning, thanks to Treyben Funderburg doubling home his fellow senior Sebastian Fabik.

Ball State took the lead on those two runs allowed by Harris in the fourth, but Ohio jumped back in front in the bottom of the inning off a Trevor Lukkes two-run double, making it a 3-2 ballgame.

Ohio's Harry Witwer-Dukes warms up at first base during the Bobcats' game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 7, 2021. (PHOTO: Nick Viland/WOUB)
Ohio’s Harry Witwer-Dukes warms up at first base during the Bobcats’ game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 7, 2021. (PHOTO: Nick Viland/WOUB)

Senior reliever Brett Manis relieved Harris in the fifth inning.  The Cardinals took the lead back in the fifth with a Noah Navarro two-run double.  The Cardinals added another run off Manis in the seventh inning on a fielder’s choice, increasing Ball State’s lead to two.

After the Seventh Inning Stretch, the Bobcats went ahead for good.

Senior catcher Tanner Piechnick tied the game up at five with a two-run double.  Piechnick later scored on a wild pitch giving Ohio the 6-5 lead.  Harry Witwer-Dukes hit his second homer in as many days later in the seventh.

Funderburg added another RBI to his name in the eighth with a single to bring home Fabik.  Piechnick tallied his third RBI of the day with a sac-fly to bring home Funderburg.

Ohio had a 9-5 lead heading into the ninth but Ball State brought the game within two.

After starting on Saturday, interim head coach Craig Moore looked to Kutt to close out the series finale on his senior day — and he did just that, earning his fifth save of the season.

This win secured a winning season for Ohio.  The Bobcats finish their home slate with a 19-10 record.

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After a coaching change weeks before the season started, interim head coach Craig Moore has done an incredible job guiding the Bobcats to their first winning season since 2017 — all in a season filled with uncertainty and COVID restrictions.  Ohio will need to win three of four games next weekend at Western Michigan to reach the 30-win mark or split the series to earn a .500 record in MAC play.

The series will open up on Friday at 3 p.m.  The Bobcats and Broncos will then play two seven-inning games on Saturday and will close the season out on Sunday at 1 p.m.