Ohio has a habit of falling behind early and coming back late to win.
The Bobcats did that against Marshall, Kent State and USC Upstate. At least once during each of those series, they were down in the early innings but managed to shake out a win.
Often this season, the Bobcats have found their way out of the dark during the fourth or fifth inning. It's not uncommon for Ohio to put up zeros and then have one inning contain a majority of its runs. In most cases, Ohio’s offense will suddenly shed the weight keeping it down and unload a handful of timely runs to secure a win.
The Bobcats upheld the late-inning tradition Friday night when Mason Minzey walked off for a 6-5 victory against Toledo in the 10th inning.
After falling down in the first, Ohio struggled at the plate. It produced a hit here-and-there, but it never strung anything together. All but two Bobcats had hits, so it was not like the Rockets were overpowering the hitters. Toledo simply had better timing.
When Ohio did start having consistent production in the bottom of the seventh, it shifted the game’s story completely. The Bobcats were no longer cowering to the chirps of the Rockets. Instead, the Bobcats were the ones to fear.
Nick Dolan started the two-out rally with a two-RBI double that nicked the outfield wall before falling back into the park. Then, Isaiah Peterson hit an RBI single and scored on a wild pitch to give Ohio a two-run lead.
“We’ve been in this position before and there’s never a doubt in any of our heads that we’re going to come back,” Dolan said. “My teammates put me in a great position by getting baserunners on early (in the inning).”
Ohio’s had to come back so many times. But why is the majority of its offensive production so late in the game? Part of the reason could be the fact that the Bobcats are finally starting to settle in against the opposing team’s pitcher.
On Friday, Ohio had two hits in the first inning before freezing. Once the Bobcats were settled in, they had seven hits before the Rockets changed pitchers. Toledo’s starting pitcher, Kyle Jones, threw 93 pitches before being replaced. Ohio had plenty of time to figure out Jones.
Toledo understood that its opponent was a quick study after Ohio jumped on Jones and his successor, Patrick Dillon, so it turned to the pickoff move.
Toledo reliever Cal McAninch spent the majority of Alex Finney’s at-bat throwing toward Spencer Harbert on first base. Just when it looked as if McAninch was going to deliver a pitch, he would step off toward first. In the end, the time in between pitches threw off Finney, and he struck out.
Also, the late production could be the way Ohio’s batting order has been structured.
The bottom of Ohio’s order knows how to put the bat on the ball. In order to balance out the production, Ohio shifted around its order Friday. A.J. Rausch moved up to the two-hole, Michael Richardson moved down to the eighth spot, and the middle shifted around.
Ohio’s two leaders in RBIs — Rausch and Minzey — have been toward the bottom of the batting order most of the season, meaning that they are getting up in later innings of the game. However, its hit leaders — Peterson and Colin Kasperbauer — are toward the top of the order.
Playing around with the batting order has allowed Ohio to see where its assets lie. The Bobcats have attempted to learn from their previous games, but somehow the story stays the same.
“We would like to get more production going early in the game and be the aggressor, and jump on teams,” Ohio coach Craig Moore said. “But again, it is a sign of our offensive character. They stay with the game even though things aren’t going well.”
If it wants to become a true contender for a Mid-American Conference title, Ohio is going to need to figure out how to spread out its offensive production from the first inning to the last.