Through its first two weeks of Mid-American Conference play, Ohio appeared to have patched some of the issues that mired its success in its first two months of the season. Nearly every facet of the Bobcats’ game appeared to improve en route to a modest 3-3 MAC record before their series against Northern Illinois, who began the weekend on a five-game losing streak.
But Ohio’s adjustments were only temporary: The Bobcats lost all three games against the Huskies this weekend in DeKalb, Illinois, and crept backward in the standings. Offensive, defensive and pitching struggles all played a role in the Bobcats failing to secure a win and building another losing streak.
Here’s what happened in each game:
Offense was not an issue in Ohio’s 7-6 loss to open the series Friday at Ralph McKinzie Field. The Bobcats outhit the Huskies 12-9 and recorded hits in all but two innings. However, it wasn’t enough to aid early woes from the mound.
Kenny Ogg started for Ohio and allowed five runs in four innings to place the Bobcats in an early hole. Ohio later faced a five-run deficit after Chace Harris allowed two runs in two innings of relief.
Ohio’s offense struggled to convert hits into runs after a three-run first inning, but it still gave itself a chance in the ninth inning. Rudy Rott hit a three-run homer with no outs and cut the deficit to one run, but the Bobcats failed to put another man on base and came up a run short.
The loss ended Ohio’s three-game winning streak, its longest of the season.
Jack Liberatore has been the most reliable starter for Ohio this season, but he needed help from the Bobcats’ bats after he gave up four runs on six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings on Saturday.
Unlike Friday, however, there was no offensive spark from Ohio. The Bobcats recorded nine hits but could only score two runs, both in the ninth inning, and suffered a 5-2 loss. Ohio tagged Northern Illinois starter William Anderson for five hits and three walks, but the right-hander still shutout the Bobcats for seven innings.
Ohio also committed three errors, and each of them led to Northern Illinois runs.
The Bobcats toyed with the idea of moving Eddie Kutt, who sported a team-best 2.22 ERA at the time, from the bullpen to the starting rotation at the beginning of the season, when they were dealing with inconsistencies on the mound .
Coach Rob Smith gave Kutt an opportunity to start Sunday, but it was one to forget: Kutt allowed five runs on six hits and two walks in five innings, and Ohio lost 5-1 to complete the sweep.
It wasn’t all Kutt’s fault, though. Just one of Northern Illinois’ runs, which were all scored in the first inning, were earned after the Bobcats committed a season-high five errors. Ohio had three errors in the first inning, and the early deficit proved to be too much, despite 10 hits from the offense.
Any silver lining to the weekend, however, came from Kutt. Ohio had an opening in the Sunday spot of its weekend rotation, and Kutt proved again that he is likely the best pitcher for the job. That’s one less thing Smith will have to worry about as he attempts to steer Ohio back into the postseason.