Ohio learned a lesson or two this weekend against Ball State.
Coming in, the Cardinals were the number one team in the Mid-American Conference and a huge obstacle for the Bobcats to jump so late in the season. The Bobcats are currently in a fight to earn a bid to the MAC Tournament and a misstep could knock them out of the running completely.
But, Ohio survived the weekend — despite suffering two ugly losses. It split the series with Ball State and learned that it could hang with the best. Ohio managed to keep its position in the MAC standings and gained plenty of preparation for the postseason by the end of the series.
Here’s a day-by-day look at how the series panned out:
It did not take much for the Cardinals to overpower the Bobcats for an 11-5 win. Despite the Bobcats being the third-best hitting team in the MAC, the Cardinals outhit them 18 to seven. Both Amir Wright and Justin Conant had four hits and every batter reached safely at least once for the Cardinals.
Ohio was relatively silent at the plate. Two of its five runs came from Isaiah Peterson on a single and an RBI walk. One of Ohio’s runs wasn’t even produced by one of its own, either. It collected one run on a wild pitch during A.J. Rausch’s at-bat in the seventh inning. The run was nice to have, but it might not have scored without Ball State’s mistake.
The Bobcats’ starter, Edward Kutt IV, was jostled by the Cardinals and allowed eight runs over six innings. However, he only walked one of the 31 batters he faced and struck out four.
The Bobcats returned to the field with a better look Saturday. They kept the Cardinals scoreless for six innings to win game one of the doubleheader 5-3.
Cael Baker and Colin Kasperbauer both collected doubles that helped Ohio plate runs. Baker produced an outright RBI with his double, while Kasperbauer’s put A.J. Rausch in position to score on a wild pitch.
Rausch knocked his seventh home run of the season in the third inning, which gave the Bobcats a little boost. However, what gave the Bobcats the leg up was their pitching.
In his second start of the season, Eamon Horwedel retired 16 of the 18 batters he faced. Horwedel kept Ball State scoreless over five and one-third innings. The start was his longest and best of the season.
The Bobcats did not have the same bite in game two, though.
Ball State reaped 10 runs from Ohio over the first two innings of the game. Starter Hudson Boncal was sent back to the bench before he could complete two innings of work. It was the freshman’s worst start of the season, but a valuable one to have under his belt before possible tournament play.
Ohio started to climb out of the quicksand in the third inning when Peterson hit a solo home run. It later received more aid in the fourth inning when Kasperbauer and Mason Minzey hit back-to-back home runs, which were followed by three more runs.
But, right when all seemed to be well for the Bobcats, the rest of the game was delayed due to the weather.
Ohio did not pick up where it left off when it resumed the postponed game. Rather, Ball State surged for six more runs and put Ohio away 16-6.
Yet, the Bobcats were not ready to give up after being pummeled. They picked their heads up and prepared to do all they could to try for a series split.
Ohio and Ball State both brought their bats on Sunday, but it was Ohio who came out on top. Ohio outhit its opponent 17 to 13 for a crafty 15-10 victory.
Kasperbauer led the Bobcats with four RBIs and showed the Cardinals why he has the third-best batting average in the MAC. He was followed by Baker and Will Sturek, who each had three RBIs of their own. Sturek, who has the second-best on base percentage in the MAC, collected two of his RBIs in the fourth on a triple that solidified Ohio’s lead for the rest of the game.
Braxton Kelly came in for Brenden Roder in the fourth inning and earned the win despite walking five batters and allowing four runs. Kelly now leads the Bobcats in wins with five.
The end of conference play is on the horizon and Ohio knows it. However, Ohio has spunk and has shown that it can scrap. There’s a chance that Ohio could be one of four teams in the MAC Tournament — as long as it can hold out for one last series.