Walk-off wins in extra innings are always nice — but even better if they happen twice.
Ohio (14-11, 8-7 Mid-American Conference) proved this to be true after sweeping its doubleheader against Eastern Michigan (8-16, 4-11 MAC) on Saturday, taking game one 4-3 in nine innings and game two 2-1 in 10.
Braxton Kelly was on the mound for the Bobcats in game one and tossed seven strikeouts in five innings. He allowed two runs, but both were unearned due to the runners scoring on errors by the Bobcats’ defense in the top of the first.
Ohio rebounded from those defensive mistakes in its first at bat. Isaiah Peterson led the bottom of the first off with a sharp single to right, putting one on for the Bobcats. Peterson would soon find his way home on a two-run home run by Harry Witwer-Dukes to tie the game.
Peterson then nailed a shot of his own in the bottom of the third, sending the ball over the centerfield fence to give Ohio the lead. The Bobcats were able to maintain their lead until the bottom of the sixth when the Eagles scored on a RBI groundout via reliever Edward Kutt IV.
The game was forced into extras as the score remained tied through the bottom of the seventh. Eastern Michigan kept starter Justin Meis on the mound through the bottom of the eighth, pitching a near-complete game. His relief man, Zach Fruit, was able to freeze the Bobcats then but was not prepared for the attack to come.
Ohio began the bottom of the ninth with a double by Sebastian Fabik, who was then able to reach a better scoring position on a wild pitch by Fruit, setting himself up for success during Tanner Piechnick’s at bat. Piechnick was presumably out on a bouncing ball back to the pitcher, but Fruit overthrew his target, allowing Piechnick to reach base safely and Fabik to score.
Ohio was full of energy before game two with a win under its belt.
Interim head coach Craig Moore gave the ball to Logan Jones for what almost became a complete game for the freshman. He allowed only two hits over seven innings, one of which was a home run from Christian Bault in the top of the second. His earned run would soon be equaled after Treyben Funderburg sent a long ball of his own over the left field wall for the Bobcats to tie the game in the bottom of the third.
Both teams were entrenched in a pitching duel that would take them into extra innings for the second time Saturday. Jones lasted seven and two-thirds innings, walking three and striking out four, while Eastern Michigan’s Luke McGuire earned five strikeouts and no walks in eight. Clean fielding helped both pitchers secure clean stat lines through the stretch.
The Bobcats had a chance to walk off in the ninth. Witwer-Dukes and Fabik were both in scoring position with one out on the board, but Ohio produced a pair of pop-ups instead of a run. This lit a fire under the Bobcats as they entered the 10th and fielded a quick one-two-three inning with hopes of finishing the game there.
Aaron Levy was set to lead off for the Bobcats and walked up to the plate as if it was any other at bat, but this one would be special. The sound of contact caused the Bobcat fans to cheer as his moonshot rocketed over the left field wall. His teammates met him at the plate with ear-to-ear smiles to celebrate a 4-3 win for Ohio.
“That was an awesome feeling,” Levy said. “I’m just happy I could do that.”
Moore was pleased with Levy and the rest of the Bobcats’ performance.
“I thought that they played the game, the second game with the right intensity, in the right mind frame,” Moore said. “I told them they’re Division I student-athletes, Division I baseball players. You play the game hard; you play the game the right way.”
Ohio showed its capabilities to do just that in both games Saturday. The Bobcats improved with every inning. They made big plays when it mattered, something they had been working on since the season began.
“We’re hoping that it’s building confidence for them,” Moore said, “Not just for the individual, but for the team.”
This confidence will be key as Ohio enters its series finale with the Eagles on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Bob Wren Stadium. If the Bobcats are able to get the win, it would give them their second series sweep of the season.