Rob Smith walked out to his team, which stood quietly outside its dugout, and prepared for a longer-than-usual postgame speech Saturday after another loss to Kent State. None of the players spoke as they waited for Smith to join the huddle.
Smith said Friday he wanted Ohio to be more aggressive. It appeared as if that message struck the Bobcats early Saturday against the Golden Flashes. But ultimately there wasn’t enough aggression to save them from losing their second straight as they lost 18-11 at Bob Wren Stadium. Fielding errors and pitching woes gave the Bobcats little chance of evening the series with the Golden Flashes.
So Smith voiced the same message to Ohio again on Saturday. This time, though, that speech last eight minutes, a lot longer than Smith’s three or four minute talk Friday.
“We have to win the game tomorrow,” Smith said. “So there is no point in worrying about this one. We have to come out tomorrow and find a way to play better.”
Ohio (14-26, 8-9 Mid-American Conference) scored eight runs in the first three innings, including a three-run blast from center fielder Sebastian Fabik, who powered Ohio to a commanding six-run lead which was whittled down to three runs by the sixth inning.
Kent State took advantage of Ohio starter Jack Liberatore, who allowed seven runs before he was relieved by Braxton Kelly in the sixth inning.
Kelly then gave up a grand slam. The Bobcats’ lead was gone.
It wasn’t all the pitchers’ fault, though. Ohio had three errors in the sixth inning, and those errors plated two more runs that shouldn’t have been allowed.
“We’re just not a good defensive team right now,” Smith said. “And that just puts us in bad spots.”
Ohio allowed the most runs in a game since 2016 against Ball State, The Bobcats also failed to qualify for the MAC Tournament that season.
Sunday’s game will be a must-win for the Bobcats. Ohio is sitting at fifth in the MAC standings and could move down to sixth place, the last tournament spot, if it loses. That is not where it wants to be.
The Bobcats are toeing the line between good and bad teams in the MAC, and losses like Saturday’s that separate them into the bad. A win on Sunday could give them some much needed momentum.
It will be tough for Ohio to play better. Kenny Ogg, the least consistent weekend starter, will take the mound. Ogg will have to go far into the game since the Bobcats used eight pitchers on Saturday.