Rob Smith stood with his back to right field as the lights of Bob Wren Stadium beamed around him.
Answering questions from the media after a 3-hour game wasn’t what the fifth-year coach wanted to be doing. No doubt all losses hurt, but a 10-8 loss after holding on to multiple leads against Ohio State stung even more.
A 2-run double in the ninth inning, with two outs and two strikes, put the Buckeyes on top for good on a night filled with hope and a season-high crowd of 1,990. On a night when the Bobcats needed hope in order to turn around a three-game losing streak, things turned sour.
Instead, when so many things went right — errorless defense, strong at-bats and a starter that lasted six innings — the outcome wasn’t what Ohio needed it to be. The loss marks the teams 22nd on the season and its 12th straight to the Buckeyes.
“Every loss is disappointing,” Smith said. “Obviously, to have an opportunity to beat Ohio State is disappointing when you got that game when you’re one strike away.”
Tuesday night showcased Ohio’s talent to compete against a Big Ten program, such as Cole Revels’ performance. In the fourth inning, the redshirt freshman designated hitter hit his first home run of his career, a grand slam over the right-field fence.
The four runs were part of a five-run fourth inning, which gave them a 5-3 lead. Revels struck again, driving in his fifth RBI of the night with a single to center field in the eighth inning. That gave Ohio a 1-run lead, its last lead of the night.
“I can’t say enough about Cole Revels, what he did tonight,” Smith said.
Joe Rock gave Smith another great midweek start. Across the country, midweek nonconference games are known to be bullpen games, a chance for coaches to use the depth of their bullpens to give guys opportunities.
Instead, Rock, a weekend starter for the Bobcats earlier this season, made his second straight start in a midweek game and thrived. The left-hander lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out three.
In his freshman season, Rock’s been able to find his groove on the mound against nonconference opponents. In his last two starts, he’s allowed just three earned runs through 11 2/3 innings. Smith considered starting him this past weekend at Northern Illinois, but he wanted a good arm for the midweek game.
While Rock and Revel shone, Rudy Rott continued his dominance as if it was the status quo. As the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, he finished last year batting .355 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.
It seemed obvious that a Division I conference player of the year would be drafted in one of the 40 rounds of the MLB draft.
Somehow he wasn’t, but he’s continued to be the best bat on Ohio’s roster this season with a .350 batting average and 11 home runs. The first baseman is on pace to reset his season-high in home runs and RBIs with 21 games remaining.
In his first at-bat Tuesday night, he hit a double down the right-field line. On the first pitch of his second at-bat, he crushed a solo shot over the left-field wall, his 11th home run of the season.
He finished 3-of-4 at the plate, yet again proving he’s one of the best hitters in the MAC.
“Rudy’s the best hitter in our league,” Smith said. “He continually shows it every weekend. He’s incredibly hardworking, is highly competitive, and he’s one of the best hitters to ever play here.”
Now, Ohio will have a host a huge weekend series against Toledo. The loss to Ohio State didn’t give the Bobcats any momentum, didn’t give them bragging rights for a year and didn’t break an 11-game losing streak to it.
While Revels, Rock and Rott all dazzled, it wasn’t enough to string together a win, pushing the Bobcats’ losing streak to four games. A bad output this weekend could push Ohio out of the MAC Tournament picture.
It would mark the beginning of the end to Rott’s time in Athens — and it could mark another underwhelming regular season for Ohio.