After a 6-2 loss on Tuesday and a 7-6 loss on Wednesday, Ohio failed to win either of its midweek games against Marshall. Here are some things to note from the two losses.
Michael Klein has tried everything that could possibly help him heal a right elbow injury he’s been nursing since his March 24 start against Bowling Green.
The Bobcats’ starting pitcher and designated hitter has been wearing kinesiology therapeutic tape around his arm ever since he threw an off-speed pitch on March 24 that ended with a pop in his elbow. The right-hander has even bought a rice bucket, where he squeezes the rice inside the bucket to strengthen his forearm, in hopes of rehabbing his injury while maintaining his arm strength.
In his fourth pitching appearance since suffering the injury, Klein started for Ohio on Wednesday. He pitched just one inning, but gave up two earned runs on two hits and two walks.
Klein, who also played as Ohio’s designated hitter on Wednesday, compensated for the rough inning with a one-out grand slam in his first at-bat.
The redshirt senior admitted that although his arm has felt better, he’s still not back to full health. Klein said that although his off-speed pitches worked fine, he struggled most with his fastball.
“(My elbow) is still not ideal,” Klein said. “I still don’t have my juice that I want behind it. My fastball just felt like I wasn’t finishing very well. It didn’t have the zone confidence in there and I didn’t have my juice to back up the (velocity).”
Coach Rob Smith has eased Klein back into pitching duties since he suffered his injury. Klein’s found mixed results in his outings since the injury — he’s pitched just 3 2/3 total innings and has given up four earned runs on 10 hits and one strikeout.
Smith said he doesn’t have a timeline for when Klein may begin to see more extended starts. The sixth-year coach also expressed uncertainty as to whether he’d allow Klein to pitch in Ohio’s three-game series against Mid-American Conference opponent Kent State this weekend.
“He wasn’t sharp today,” Smith said. “I don’t think he felt great, so I don’t think we’re making positive progress with where he’s at.”
After launching a towering home run in Ohio’s 5-4 win Saturday against Eastern Michigan, Tanner Piechnick continued his offensive breakout with another solo home run on Tuesday.
Piechnick, who has a .319 batting average and a career-high six home runs in 2018, is enjoying his steady offensive production while also adjusting to playing left field. He was primarily a catcher last season for the Bobcats.
Smith said he placed Piechnick in left field solely to receive more at-bats, and the sophomore has taken full advantage of his offensive opportunity. Batting primarily fourth in Ohio’s lineup, Piechnick is tied for third on the team with 19 RBIs.
“We’re just going to do whatever we have to do positionally to get his bat in the lineup,” Smith said. “Right now, it’s left field.”
Piechnick, who has occasionally returned to catcher and has also sparingly played right field this season, has appeared to slowly find comfort in his new defensive position. Piechnick has committed just four errors in the outfield and was nearly flawless in the two games against Marshall. Since committing two errors in left field on April 6 against Toledo, the sophomore has gone errorless in his previous five starts at the position.
“I think I’ve become more comfortable over the last week,” Piechnick said. “Being able to get outside a little bit more, nicer weather and I can see more balls off the bat.”
Offensive slump continues
Ohio’s painful offensive woes continued in the two Marshall losses.
The Bobcats combined for eight runs and 11 hits in the two games and left 17 runners on base. Smith made sure to put an emphasis on better offensive approaches with runners in scoring position after Wednesday’s defeat.
“Our at-bats in certain situations aren’t well-planned in some ways,” he said. “Getting baserunners is good, but you still have to put together quality at-bats when you have those guys in scoring position. We just haven’t done that.”
Since scoring 15 runs against Toledo on April 6, the Bobcats haven’t scored more than six runs in their previous nine games and have gone 2-7 in that stretch.
Facing a 7-4 deficit in the eighth inning on Wednesday, Ohio loaded the bases with one out and had an opportunity to not only take the lead, but take Marshall out of the game if it could string together a series of hits.
The Bobcats instead drew a strikeout, a fly out and two walks to score two runs. The disappointing sequence encapsulated the too-patient approach that has caused Ohio’s offense to drop in production.
It’s a similar issue that plagued Ohio a year ago, and the Bobcats know they need a better plan when they have opportunities to steal or widen a lead late in games.
“That just comes with better plate discipline and a better plan,” Klein said. “We can battle down, try to get that clutch hit because that’s how we can win ballgames.”