When Ohio needed a man to pull them up in their 9-4 win over Kent State on Friday afternoon, A.J. Rausch delivered — twice. The redshirt freshman, in his first season as a regular starter, rounded all the bases and headed for home on his own will.
Rausch’s two home runs — good for five RBIs — were the lone reasons Ohio blew Kent State out by five runs.
His first home run was a direct launch over the left field wall late in the fourth inning. At the time, Ohio held just a one-run lead, thanks to an RBI double by Mason Minzey earlier in the inning. Rausch later stepped up to the plate and brought himself, Minzey and Cael Baker home.
What followed was routine. Rausch’s teammates high-fived him as he sauntered back to the dugout with a smile on his face. Bob Wren Stadium shook from the applause and cheers of Ohio fans. The hit felt good, but the four-run lead felt even better.
But Ohio’s lead shrank as the game wore on. Kent State hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game in the top of the eighth. Ohio’s offense had stalled after Rausch’s home run, and it needed a jolt to wake up and secure its second win of the week.
That jolt came with the bottom of the batting order in the bottom of the eighth inning. After a flyout from Minzey, Michael Richardson hit a home run of his own to give Ohio another one-run lead. Ohio got its boost, but it wasn’t enough. It needed reassurance.
Then, Rausch stepped back up to the plate.
He fouled a few balls off and watched a few low and high pitches before making solid contact. On the twelfth pitch of his at-bat, Rausch made solid contact and sent the ball rocketing deep into center field. Kent State’s center fielder dove as the ball curved toward the ground, but it went under him. The ball rolled toward the fence as Rausch sprinted around the bases. Ohio coach Craig Moore waived him through to third and had no intention of stopping him there.
Sending Rausch home was a chance that Moore was willing to take. Ohio already had picked up one run off the hit, and the idea of another run was too good to ignore.
“He can run,” Moore said. “I knew he would at least get to third base. When you’ve got your corner infielders playing where they were, there was just no shot that they were going to be able to throw him out.”
Rausch ran down the third base line and dove head-first into home plate. He glided across the plate before the throw could even bounce into the catcher’s mitt. Rausch popped up, and the smile returned to his face.
Once again, the fans in Bob Wren Stadium erupted. The Bobcats had a three-run lead with only one out on the board.
Rausch’s two home runs were what tipped the scales in Ohio’s favor. Friday wasn’t the first time that he had caused an offensive swing, and it likely won’t be the last.
The redshirt freshman carries with him a drive to compete and an inherent desire to improve from every game.
It’s what motivates his offensive production.
“Our hitting philosophy is just to compete,” Rausch said. “Give the best that you can, and that’s what I’ve been doing and it's paying off.”