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Ohio moves into first place with series sweep over Akron

Baseball is a game of seizing opportunity.

Right now, nobody seems to understand that better than Ohio.

The Bobcats seemed to take advantage of every misstep Akron made in the first two games of this late-season Mid-American Conference series, and that didn’t change on Sunday as Ohio used a four-run fifth inning to defeat Akron 5-3 and clinch the sweep. It’s the first home sweep for the Bobcats since 2012, and the first time they’ve swept Akron since 2010.

“It’s huge,” senior first baseman Jake Madsen said. “I think pretty much everybody picked us to finish last in our division at the start of the season, so it’s nice to prove people wrong. Having this momentum for us going into the MAC tournament is huge for us.”

Akron looked primed to make a statement early on in Sunday’s action, as they kept sophomore starting pitcher Jake Rudnicki going deep into each of their first three at bats, leading to runners on the corner with just one out. Both of those runners would go on to score on a single through the middle by Kris Simonton, as Ohio sophomore second baseman Ty Black made a diving stop, but made an errant throw to home that allowed Simonton to go all the way to third base.

Rudnicki settled in after that, however, retiring his next ten batters while allowing the Bobcats offense time to work back into the game. That started with senior third baseman John Adryan singling to left field to score Tyler Wells in the second inning, providing Ohio with their first run of the game.

Rudnicki finished the day with a win after five innings pitched, during which he allowed two runs on just three hits, walking two and striking out three. The sophomore’s early season struggles caused him to be demoted from first to third in Ohio’s rotation, but a current streak of four straight starts with at least five innings pitched could indicate that the pieces are beginning to fall into place.

“I’m definitely finding a rhythm,” Rudnicki said. “In the first couple starts, things didn’t go very well. But the last couple starts, I’ve just tried to make pitches and get ahead of the guy. Coach Mo told me there’s a difference between throwing strikes and pitching, and that you have to make pitches that count. That’s really what I’m focusing on.”

Ohio got its big break in the fifth inning, when two hits and a walk gave the Bobcats bases loaded with one out and their best hitter in sophomore left fielder Mitch Longo at the plate. Longo took a four pitch walk that pushed across the tying run, before Jake Madsen stepped in and delivered a sacrifice fly to center field that scored junior center fielder Manny DeJesus.

Redshirt junior catcher Cody Gaertner kept things going with an RBI single before Wells hit a groundball to second that got mishandled and allowed the fourth run of the inning to score and give Ohio a 5-2 lead.

Senior Logan Cozart pitched the final four innings of the game, allowing just one run and striking out six en route to his eighth save of the season. The performance came two days after Cozart pitched a perfect 2 ⅔ innings in the series opener.

The day not only represented yet another season-defining effort for the Bobcats, but also a significant day in Ohio baseball history. In the fourth inning, Madsen lined a pitch into center field to pass Ben Crabtree on as the all-time career hits leader at Ohio with 270. The first baseman finished the day 1-for-3 with an RBI, and finished the series 5-for-11.

With the win, Ohio moved into a tie for first place in the MAC East division with Kent State, who fell to Miami 2-0 on Sunday. The Bobcats defeated Kent State in two out of three games the teams played last weekend.

Ohio’s next action with be a home weekend series against Toledo.


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