Ohio wrapped its 2021 season in late May with a series loss at Western Michigan. With their final series in the books, the Bobcats finished the season 28-25 (19-21 Mid-American Conference).
Overall, Ohio finished the season with an overall gain from where it began. The Bobcats were picked to finish seventh in the MAC preseason coaches poll and came out sixth. They defeated difficult opponents and had several big weekends after having to overcome a handful of obstacles this season.
Now that baseball has concluded, let’s recap the past five months for Ohio.
Baseball was back for the 2021 season after much deliberation during the fall months. Ohio was set to return to play in mid-February with a string of new regulations due to COVID-19. However, the Bobcats were about to have to jump through another hoop before the first pitch of the season.
Less than a month before the Bobcats were were to board the buses for Radford, former coach Rob Smith announced his retirement after eight seasons with the team. Ohio then announced that assistant coach Craig Moore would be appointed in his stead as interim head coach.
The Bobcats and their new leader began the season on the road at Radford in mid-February. Ohio took two losses in the series but earned their first win on Feb. 21 on the back of a big offensive day and a deep relief appearance by Edward Kutt IV.
Despite the series loss, some good came from the Radford series. Redshirt senior Joe Weisenseel became the first Bobcat to win MAC Player of the Week honors in 2021 after an impressive weekend at the plate and in the field.
Just a week later, Ohio exploded onto the college baseball scene when Joe Rock threw his first collegiate no-hitter to defeat Morehead State 6-0 in game one of a doubleheader on Feb. 26.
Although the team went on to drop game two 3-1 in an 11-inning battle, there was a new confidence within the squad heading into the next month.
March started in the best way possible for the Bobcats.
Personal honors were in order for the first week of March, as Rock was named MAC Pitcher of the Week for the week of March 1 after his solid outing against Morehead State.
Less than a week later, Ohio picked up its first series win and sweep of the season against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Ohio also had a third player win weekly MAC honors, marking the third week in a row a Bobcat was recognized. Redshirt-junior Spencer Harbert was named Player of the Week on March 8 after posting ten RBIs off of three home runs in Ohio’s 14-3 win on March 5.
The Bobcats were riding high heading into the week of March 12, but the train of success would soon come to a halt. Ohio’s series against Marshall was canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing. This would be the one time the Bobcats would have this issue all season.
After a week away, Ohio opened MAC play with an adjusted series against Bowling Green. Ohio was only able to take one game against the Falcons as their offensive issues became more prevalent with each game. Putting the bat on the ball was not easy for Ohio in the month of March.
Soon-to-be MAC Champions Central Michigan came to town the next week and to much surprise, the Bobcats split the series with the Chippewas thanks to timely hitting and dominant pitching. Once again, Ohio was heading into a new month with a bit more confidence.
As soon as the calendar turned to April, long gone were Ohio’s offensive struggles of March.
Ohio traveled to Toledo in the first weekend of April, where they produced double-digit run totals in the first two games of the series. The pop in the Bobcats’ bats was something to watch, especially when they hit four consecutive home runs in the top of the first inning of game one on April 3. Ohio later went on to split the series with the Rockets.
The bats came back out against Eastern Michigan, and it was the first time Ohio’s true grit was tested. The Eagles took Ohio to extra innings in both games of the March 10 doubleheader, but the Bobcats came out on top in both. This effort gave the team its second series sweep of the season, and its first – and only – in the MAC.
Ohio went away for a weekend at Northern Illinois but came back to Bob Wren Stadium with winning on its mind. The Bobcats achieved another series sweep against Purdue Fort Wayne the weekend of April 23.
On a personal success side, Rock was named Co-Pitcher of the Week for the second time of the season after the Fort Wayne series. Rock struck out 14 in a complete-game appearance during Ohio’s 12-2 win on April23.
The morale in the Bobcats’ dugout was unlike it had been all season. The players were genuinely excited to be on the field – especially in the bullpen. Ohio’s “dojo” was seen all over social media such as Twitter for their celebration to the two series sweeps.
Whether it be by throwing water or hoisting a chair, the energy was infectious for the few in attendance.
The meat of the conference schedule was in May. In order to contend for the conference championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament, Ohio had to have an almost near-perfect May.
Ohio started off well, splitting its first two series of the month against Kent State and Miami. But the struggles of previous months soon came back to haunt.
The Bobcats only took one game of their series against Akron, but things turned around when they came back home to Bob Wren. Ohio was able to split their series against Ball State, taking the last two games of the weekend.
Something new for the month was Kutt IV moving from his role of trusted reliever to powerhouse starter for the Bobcats. The senior came in as relief against Kent State during the April 30 game, but returned to the mound as the starter on May 2. Kutt IV threw a solid eight innings with ten strikeouts, notching his permanence as a starter for the rest of the month.
Ohio’s final series of the regular season against Western Michigan was not how it wanted to end things. The Bobcats finished the season on a three-game skid and without a bid to the NCAA tournament.
June, July and Beyond
Ohio had two first-team All-MAC selections for the 2021 season. The league announced the morning of June 2 that both Rock and Kutt IV had received the starting pitcher and relief pitcher nominations.
Looking ahead to the 2022 season, Ohio needs to continue to build on its success and work on its weak points. With the possibility of Rock departing after the MLB Draft in July, there is going to be a gap in the pitching rotation.
The good news is that Ohio is looking to return a majority of players, and it even has some whose talents have yet to grace the field.
Ohio has the tools to build on the best season it has had in some time, but it will require full attention from the entire squad. There will be no room for error if the Bobcats want to win the MAC in 2022.