Coach Rob Smith gave closer Jake Roehn an opportunity to escape the misfortunes that have plagued him over his past four appearances out of the bullpen.
But after Eastern Michigan hit a leadoff double and a one-out single off Roehn in the ninth inning, all Smith could do was watch the tying run cross the plate. It was Roehn's fifth-straight appearance in which he’s blown an Ohio lead, and it cost the Bobcats in their 6-4 extra-inning loss Friday at Bob Wren Stadium.
Eastern Michigan grabbed the lead in the 10th inning when Jared Kauffman, pinch hitting for Jeff Timko, doubled off Cory Blessing to score two runners. Ohio suffered its fourth loss in its last five games and third-straight Mid-American Conference game loss.
The Bobcats had just two hits after the fourth inning and failed to pick up a quality start from Gerry Salisbury. The right-hander pitched eight innings in his ninth start of the year for Ohio and allowed three runs, all earned, on six hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Salisbury's eight innings tied him for the longest start by an Ohio pitcher this season.
All Eastern Michigan’s offense needed was for Salisbury to not be on the mound. When Roehn, Ohio’s all-time leader in saves, entered the game, the Eagles suddenly found momentum. In the ninth inning, Eastern Michigan slapped four hits and the tying run off Roehn to give itself a chance to steal a win from the Bobcats.
“He was throwing strikes. They just put some good swings on him,” Smith said. “That’s the life of a closer sometimes. Any bad outing that you have typically results in a game possibly being lost.”
Roehn’s tough outing on Friday can be tossed into a pile of other forgettable performances the redshirt senior has suffered in 2018. The right-hander has given up at least one earned run in each of his previous five appearances and has allowed nine earned runs in 18 innings this season.
The often-reliable Roehn is on pace to eclipse his career record-low 11 earned runs that he gave up in each of his past two seasons.
Despite Roehn’s cold stretch, Smith is far from giving up on his closer. The sixth-year coach is confident that Roehn will find his consistency, and Smith showed no hesitancy when he said he has no plans to strip closing duties from the reliever.
“That’s why he’s in that role, man,” Smith said. “He’s mentally tough. He’s fine, and we’re going to keep sticking him out there.”
Smith said he and Roehn had realized his arm was dipping when they looked at game video from the previous two weeks. At first glance, Smith didn’t believe that his arm slot was an issue on Friday. The Eagles simply hit whatever Roehn tossed.
But for the Bobcats to snap their own misfortunes, Roehn will need to snap his, and that’s why Smith will continue utilizing Roehn in the game’s most crucial situations.
“We had a one-run lead with the all-time saves leader at Ohio,” Smith said. “(Roehn is) arguably the best closer in the MAC, preseason All-American, so what else do you ask for?”
Ohio (16-16, 4-6 MAC) will look to bounce back on Saturday in a doubleheader against Eastern Michigan (12-19, 6-4 MAC). Game one is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. The second game will begin shortly after the first game's conclusion.