Ohio took two of three games against Kent State, one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference
Before Ohio’s weekend series against Kent State, head coach Rob Smith said his team wouldn’t view this weekend as being different from any other.
The truth, however, isn’t quite as ambivalent. Kent State was the top-ranked team in the Mid-American Conference East entering the weekend, and if the Bobcats wanted to be taken seriously as a contender in the conference tournament, a strong showing on the road would be all-too important.
Three days later, it appears Ohio (22-15, 8-7 MAC) has accomplished just that. The Bobcats notched 7-5 and 11-4 victories on Friday and Saturday before falling 9-2 on Sunday — clinching their second MAC series win of the season.
“It was a big series for us,” Smith said. “Our guys did a really good job competing the whole weekend. We’ve got a goal to win the conference tournament, and that’s going to require us to win 13 or 14 games in my opinion. We made another step closer to that goal this weekend.”
The Bobcats made their strongest statement of the series in the very first game, when they marched back from three runs behind in the ninth inning. Despite a solid outing from Jake Miller (5 1/3 innings pitched, three runs allowed), Ohio trailed 5-2 entering its final at-bat. But the Golden Flashes (21-15, 9-6 MAC) walked five Bobcats and committing one error, allowing five runs to cross the plate on just one hit.
“I give our guys a lot of credit for having the discipline to take the walks and take advantage of the situation,” Smith said. “Sometimes, that’s the way you have to win a game. It was certainly uncharacteristic of their ballclub, and we were very opportunistic.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Ohio would figure out a way to string together a big inning late in the game. The Bobcats entered the seventh inning of Saturday’s contest tied 3-3 when they began firing on all cylinders offensively. Ohio put its first six batters of the inning on base without recording an out and went on to score seven runs on five hits in the frame.
It was only a matter of time, however, before Kent State — a team which starting pitching has been extraordinary all season — would find a way to halt the Bobcats. On Sunday, the Golden Flashes chipped away at Ohio’s Jake Rudnicki for five runs in the game’s first five innings.
The Golden Flashes’ Andy Ravel was then able to keep the Bobcats at bay, allowing just two runs in 6 1/3 innings of pitching. Ohio was close with Kent State entering the sixth inning, with the game tied at 2-2, but this time it was the Golden Flashes’ turn to separate themselves late. Kent State would notch four runs at the bottom of the sixth to walk away with at least one win.
Ohio will return to Athens staring at a nine-game homestand, which begins Tuesday against Eastern Kentucky.