Midway through game one of its doubleheader against Toledo on Sunday, Ohio needed a change. Jacob Tate had pitched through the first four innings, and he was succumbing to fatigue. The redshirt sophomore struggled to center the ball over the plate.
After Tate gave up two hits and hit Toledo’s Scott Mackiewicz with a pitch in the fifth inning, Ohio made a pitching change.
Eamon Horwedel entered in Tate's stead, but his performance got off to a rocky start. Horwedel balked in one of his first pitches on the mound, which brought a runner home to score. In the next at bat, Horwedel gave up an RBI single to Garret Pike that extended Toledo’s lead to four.
Horwedel finished the inning but was replaced by freshman Zach Weber in the top of the sixth. Weber also had a hard time containing Toledo’s offense. He gave up four runs on four hits in just two innings, which all but solidified Ohio's 11-5 loss in the first game of its doubleheader Sunday.
Ohio’s other relief pitchers had also grappled with Toledo earlier in the series. When Chace Harris came in to pitch for Edward Kutt IV on Friday, he gave up two runs on six hits in just over two innings of work. Colin Sells faltered in Saturday's game when he gave up five runs on four hits.
Ohio coach Craig Moore knows the importance of pitching changes. Switching pitchers can be a pivotal moment that flips the balance of a game, even if it seems necessary in the moment. Strategy is the main factor in deciding which pitcher enters the game.
“It's just matchups,” Ohio coach Craig Moore said. “You look at each guy's pitch ability and stuff, and you match it up with their hitters.”
Pitching strategy is not a last minute decision. Ohio planned its pitching strategy before its series against Toledo began. However, the schedule was shuffled around due to poor weather. Ohio was supposed to play one game on Friday and Sunday, with a doubleheader on Saturday. But the doubleheader was pushed back to Sunday, and Ohio played just one game on Friday and Saturday. The constant rescheduling of the series made Ohio's pitching strategy difficult to maintain.
“In the back of your mind on Friday and Saturday you know that you have 16 innings to play on Sunday,'' Moore said. “So yes you have to manage the staff a little bit differently than maybe the Friday, Saturday or Sunday regular format with the doubleheader on Saturday.”
Fatigue might also play a part in the Bobcats' relief pitching woes. They are in the heart of their season and are playing four or more games per week against both conference and nonconference opponents. A schedule with few breaks between games can be draining.
Whether it was the weather, schedule adjustments or fatigue that contributed to Ohio’s loss, Moore already knows the adjustments he wants his pitching staff to make.
“I want to see them attack the zone more,” Moore said. “I want to see them be more aggressive, getting in the zone, forcing contact within three pitches (and) letting our defense work. I thought our tempo at times and our pace at times was a little slower than what I would like.”