Kenny Ogg flashed a smile as he walked up the steps of the dugout at Bob Wren Stadium. A large ice bag was tightly taped to his right arm, which hurled 97 pitches Sunday and helped save Ohio from a nightmare weekend against Kent State.
The ice pack was well deserved for Ogg. He pitched eight shutout innings, allowed just five hits and struck out five batters, in Ohio’s 1-0 win against Kent State. He also saved the Bobcats from a series sweep and a steep drop in the Mid-American Conference standings.
Ohio was inundated with runs from Kent State in the first two games of the series, but the Golden Flashes were silenced to the tune of Ogg’s quick rhythm and inside-pitch ability in the senior’s dominant start Sunday.
“Kenny did an unbelievable job,” coach Rob Smith said. “We needed a senior to put us on his back, and he absolutely did that.”
If there were any predictions on how Ohio would fare in Sunday’s series finale, a blowout would have been a safe bet.
Kent State scorched Edward Kutt IV and Jack Liberatore — Ohio’s top two starters – for a combined 13 earned runs in the first two games of the series. On Saturday, the Bobcats lost 18-11 and allowed their most runs in a game since 2016. Ohio entered the weekend with a four-game win streak, but whatever it used to create that winning formula went missing.
If the Golden Flashes could pound the Bobcats’ best pitchers to open the series, there wasn’t much hope for Ogg. The right-hander pitched a complete game in his start last weekend, but he still sported a weak 5.60 ERA, and another quality start looked unlikely against the hot bats from Kent State’s third-ranked offense in the MAC.
So, how did Ogg dominate? It required a look at some tape and a tweak to the pitching plan he originally carried into the weekend.
Liberatore and Kutt, who each owned a sub-3.00 ERA, approached Kent State with a plan to hammer the outside half of the plate. They excel at combining a fastball and changeup to perplex a batter’s timing, and the duo’s success has largely come by painting the outside zone with those pitches.
Ogg’s repertoire is a bit different. He works with a sinker and cutter, and unlike his counterparts, Ogg wanted to throw those pitches inside to jam hitters and, hopefully, generate weak contact.
The plan worked to perfection. Ogg rarely put himself in high-pressure situations, and whenever Kent State found baserunners, Ogg prevented damage by forcing weak grounders or shallow fly balls.
He looked ready to pitch another complete game, but fatigue arose in the eighth inning. With one out and runners on first and second base, Ogg gave up a deep fly ball to left field, sagged his shoulders and waited for the umpire to throw him a new ball.
Ogg thought he had just given up a three-run home run, but the shutout was preserved when Trevor Lukkes caught the ball in front of the warning track.
The next out came with much more drama.
Pavin Parks hit a ball that landed over the right-field fence and just to the right of the foul pole. The umpire ruled that the ball, which towered above the foul pole, landed in foul territory, but it was only a few feet away from becoming a three-run home run.
After a brief umpire meeting, the foul-ball ruling stood. Ogg, unfazed by the far, but foul blast, struck out Parks. One of Kent State’s base coaches was thrown out after he continued to argue the foul call.
“It all worked out,” Ogg said with a smile.
Ogg was relieved by Brett Manis, who notched the save in the ninth inning, but if it wasn’t for Ogg’s ability to relax and pitch inside to Kent State, Ohio would likely be looking at a three-game losing streak as it heads into its toughest stretch of the season: six games against Miami and Ball State, who sit at the top of MAC.
No, they didn’t win the series, but the Bobcats owe Ogg plenty for securing a win Sunday.
And if Ogg continues his tear, Ohio can repay him with an appearance in the MAC Tournament.