Ohio played 50 games in its regular season, but its postseason hopes hinged on the results of three games against Western Michigan this weekend.
The Bobcats clinched the sixth and final seed for the Mid-American Conference Tournament after they won their series against the Broncos at Hyames Field. Ohio will play No. 3-seeded Kent State, who won the MAC Tournament last season, Wednesday at Sprenger Stadium in Avon.
Here's what happened in the series:
Ohio drew to within one win of a MAC Tournament berth after it won the first game against Western Michigan, 8-6.
Edward Kutt IV started for the Bobcats and allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks while striking out seven. Kutt surrendered four runs in the third inning that erased a 4-0 Ohio lead, but the right-hander settled in and registered a six-inning quality start to help the Bobcats reserve relievers for the final two games of the series.
Rudy Rott further cemented his role as Ohio's most valuable player after he hit a two-RBI single in the eighth inning that gave the Bobcats an 8-6 lead. The first baseman finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Coach Rob Smith opted to use Brett Manis, typically reserved for save situations in the ninth inning, early Thursday. Manis relived Kutt in the seventh inning and allowed only one hit — a seventh-inning home run — in the final three innings.
Smith decided to shuffle around the weekend rotation in preparation for a winner-take-all scenario on Saturday. He gave Kenny Ogg, who was commonly used as a starter in series finales, the nod for Ohio's second and potential series-winning game Friday.
Ogg, however, struggled to contain Western Michigan's bats. The right-hander allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits, including two home runs, in five innings in Ohio's 7-1 defeat that forced a do-or-die situation in Saturday's series finale.
Ohio's offense was silenced by a masterful performance from Brady Miller. The right-hander pitched a complete game for the Broncos and allowed just eight hits and no walks while striking out five.
If Rott didn't cement his case as one of Ohio's all-time best hitters and most important player of the season Thursday, he certainly earned those titles after a dominant performance Saturday.
In what could have been his final collegiate game ever, Rott carried Ohio to the MAC Tournament with two home runs and four RBIs in the Bobcats' 8-6 win over the Broncos. He went 2-for-5 at the plate and carried Ohio's offense with homers in the first and fourth inning, when Ohio scored six runs.
Rott's monstrous performance ensured big leads for Ohio's pitching staff. Smith's rotation shuffle saved Jack Liberatore for the series finale, but the right-hander only pitched three innings and allowed one run after Smith decided to utilize the top bullpen arms for the final seven innings.
Manis was used from a long-reliever role again Saturday and pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing just two earned runs on seven hits and a walk. Kutt, who threw 121 pitches Thursday, was used to secure the final two outs and send the Bobcats to the postseason.
But if it wasn't for the hot bat of Rott, who could be selected in the MLB Draft in June, Ohio's lead wouldn't have been large enough for a win. Rott is also two hits away from tying the program's all-time hits record, and he'll likely break the record in the double-elimination style MAC Tournament, which guarantees the Bobcats at least two more games.