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Baseball: Young team ignores cold, pushes forward

After Ohio’s 5-4 win against Ball State Saturday, coach Joe Carbone speculated the Bobcats would have to use orange balls in their next game. The forecast in Muncie, Ind., where wind chills dropped to 20 degrees, called for snow during yesterday’s rubber match with the Cardinals.

Carbone was joking, of course, but only halfway. The low temperatures in Muncie were emblematic of the lousy weather the Bobcats have played through all season long, conditions that contributed to a slow start from which they recently recovered.  

“It’s been a tough year,” Carbone said. “We’ve been out there in cold weather, pulling the tarp. We’ve had rain and wet.”

After six losses in their first eight games, the Bobcats have won 10 of their last 14 and entered Mid-American Conference play 11-9 — their first above .500 record at this point since 2007.

Ohio started the turnaround with two wins in three games against Tennessee Tech March 4 to 6. Ohio then won six of eight in a homestand against Marshall and Milwaukee.

“You’re just trying to do fundamental things,” Carbone said. “And you just end up doing a little better and a little better, and playing the game of baseball just a little bit better. No major change.”

Because of the weather in Athens, the Bobcats opened their season against Furman Feb. 18 without holding a single outdoor practice.

Those reps would have been useful for a Bobcat team Carbone said is the youngest he has coached in his 23 years at OU. In Saturday’s win, their first of the MAC season, the Bobcats started three freshmen.

“The freshmen are doing a pretty good job for their first taste of college baseball,” Carbone said. “We’re starting three or four freshmen. You usually get killed when you’re doing that. We’re hanging in there.”

Ohio lost all four games of the series with Furman. The next weekend, the team went 2-2 in a tournament in North Carolina to reach a record of 2-6.

The Bobcats’ progression was not helped by a new kind of bat instituted by the NCAA this season. The bats are still metal but are designed to mimic wooden bats in that they have less pop than the old version.

“Offensively, with the new bats now, we’re struggling a little bit,” Carbone said. “But our pitching’s been doing a good job, and we’ve been doing a decent job on defense.”


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