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Bobcats finish first weekend of 2015 undefeated

Bobcats collect 51 hits in three games as lineup steamrolls Bulldog pitching

For a team coming off its worst season in program history, it’s necessary to make a statement at the very beginning that things are going to be different this time around.

Taking a quick glance at a baseball team’s football-like scores from this weekend, it’s possible that statement has already been made.

Ohio swept UNC-Asheville in three straight games by scores of 16-9, 14-12 and 10-3. Tom Colletti got the win in relief on Friday, while starters Connor Sitz and Evan Geist each picked up decisions in their respective season debuts.

The transition to live pitching, clearly, was swift and painless for the Bobcats, who posted double-digit run totals in three straight games for the first time since 2010 this weekend.

A significant reason Ohio was able to do so by stringing together big innings throughout the series, including a 10-run ninth on Friday and then a nine-run sixth on Saturday.

“We’ve got some quality hitters in our lineup,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of balance, so when the other team’s trying to figure out how to navigate through our order, it can be a really tough thing to do. Our guys did a great job this weekend putting together some quality at bats.”

Friday’s game featured a comeback after the Bobcats found themselves trailing 5-0 after two innings, but got some solid long relief work from Christian Botter than allowed them to stay in the game while the lineup chipped away at the deficit.

Trailing 5-3 entering the eighth inning, Ohio was able to put up a three-spot and lead 6-5 by the time the inning ended. After UNC-Asheville scored the tying run in the bottom of the inning, Ohio came back to score 10 runs in the ninth inning, putting the game out of reach and securing its first win of the season.

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Saturday’s first game featured another offensive breakout, as Ohio turned a 1-1 pitchers’ duel into the beginnings of a blowout, putting nine runs on the board in the sixth inning. The Bulldogs’ offense began to formulate its own attack, but the Bobcats stayed just far enough ahead to hold down a 14-12 win.

The third game of the series featured another early Bobcat deficit, the Bulldogs raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first two innings of the game. The Bobcats then came back with another big inning, as a five-run third jump-started its offense again and paved the way to a 10-3 win.

The sweep was Ohio’s first since May 2012.

“I think the guys had a lot of fun, and that’s something we haven’t had a lot of,” Smith said. “We’re trying to rebuild this thing, and some of the things we worked through last year. Our guys enjoyed playing well and I’m just happy for our kids.”

Jake Madsen led the way with five RBIs this weekend, while Manny DeJesus, Mitch Longo, Cody Gaertner and Ty Black all totaled four RBIs.

Jake Rudnicki labored through his first start of the season Friday, lasting just two innings and allowing five runs — three of which were earned — on four hits and four walks while striking out four.

Connor Sitz and Evan Geist had much more polished outings, as Sitz pitched six innings, giving up one run on three hits with eight strikeouts, while Geist gave up three runs on five hits, walking four and striking out six in five innings of work.

As far as how the staff responded to Smith’s goal of simply throwing strikes and letting the rest take care of itself, Smith said that it was probably a 50/50 split.

“I think, as a whole, we didn’t throw as many strikes as I would have liked, but we did have some great individual performances too,” Smith said. “I think collectively, the pitching staff still has some work to do, but I did see some really bright spots.”


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