After its first sweep of the season, Ohio is in unfamiliar territory: the top half of the Mid-American Conference standings.
The Bobcats are riding their hottest streak of the season and have emerged as a legitimate threat in the MAC after they stole three road wins last weekend against Eastern Michigan. Ohio has won five of its last seven games and has a conference record above .500 for the first time this year.
Here’s three takeaways from Ohio’s big sweep:
Ogg dominates, saves rotation spot for future
Kenny Ogg was due for a big day on the mound, and coach Rob Smith knew it.
That’s why he stuck with Ogg as a Sunday starter despite his struggles to drop his ERA below 6.00. Ogg last pitched a quality start on March 8, and the right-hander was susceptible to allowing big innings the second or third time through a lineup.
But that wasn’t the case Sunday. Ogg pitched Ohio’s only complete game of the year and allowed just three earned runs en route to a 6-3 Bobcats victory and his first win in over a month.
Ogg’s start should solidify his role in the weekend rotation for at least another series or two. Smith had pondered replacing Ogg if the senior couldn’t improve in his starts, but Ogg suppressed those concerns with his nine-inning effort Sunday.
His next challenge, however, won’t be easy. Ohio’s next two opponents are Kent State and Miami, who carry two of the best offenses in the MAC.
Richardson continues to heat up
Several players have increased their batting average since Ohio’s offense crept away from the slump that mired the first 25 or so games this season.
No player has risen more than Michael Richardson. The second baseman boosted his batting average to .305 after going 6-for-12 at the plate against EMU’s lackluster pitching and now owns a seven-game hitting streak.
Richardson has quietly moved behind Rudy Rott as one of the top hitters in Ohio’s lineup. Richardson’s .416 on-base percentage is only two points lower than Rott’s team-leading .418 percentage, and Richardson trails only Rott in Ohio’s leaders in batting average.
What makes this all impressive, though, is remembering how Richardson began the season. He was just 4-for-27 before MAC play and wasn’t much of a threat in the bottom half of Ohio’s lineup.
Now, Richardson bats cleanup and should receive plenty of RBI opportunities in the future. Rott and Trevor Lukkes, who has also been one of the Bobcats’ more consistent batters, hit in front of Richardson, and if the hits keep coming, so will the runs.
Ohio made the most of easy opponents
The Bobcats are probably content at how they fared in their easiest portion of the schedule this year.
EMU and Toledo, which Ohio played two weekends ago, sit in the bottom of the MAC standings and have a combined six conference wins. Neither team has been a threat on the mound or at the plate, so Ohio needed to make the most of each series.
And it did. Ohio went 5-1 against the two opponents and used both series as a springboard to improve its pitching and offense, which both made tremendous improvements in April. The Bobcats now own one of the best starting rotations in the MAC, and their offense has hit a respectable .289 in its last seven games.
The Bobcats are hoping those trends won’t go away in their next two series against much more formidable foes in Kent State and Miami. If they do, Ohio will likely lose its No. 5 spot in the MAC Tournament, and may fall out of the tournament race entirely.