MUNCIE, IND. — Ohio had one final chance to extend its Mid-American Conference Tournament run. It was sitting in the loser’s bracket against Toledo and elimination was on the line.
The Bobcats started quickly at the plate in the first inning. They jumped on Rockets starter Camryn Szynski and loaded the bases with the first three batters. Within seconds of Mason Minzey entering the batter’s box, the Bobcats had the lead. Minzey had launched a grand slam over right field.
“We jumped out to a pretty good start there with Mason hitting that grand slam, and felt like that could maybe be a little bit of indication how the day was going to go for us,” Ohio coach Craig Moore said.
But, it wasn’t. As soon as Ohio had gotten up, it fell — just like the rain over First Merchants Ballpark. In the end, Ohio slipped hard as the skies opened and lost 13-5.
Toledo hit back hard in the bottom of the first inning. It only took four hits to tie the game at four and by then, Toledo had gotten to starter Hudson Boncal. Conditions weren’t ideal for the freshman, and Toledo used that added pressure to run him out of the game in the middle of the second inning.
Braxton Kelly inherited a slight mess from Boncal when he entered the game. He tried to patch the wounds but didn’t settle into a groove until after he allowed four more runs. By the end of Kelly’s short appearance, he had struck out seven batters over three and two-thirds innings.
During that time period, neither team scored. It was radio silence from the third through fifth innings.
However, Toledo ended the stalemate in the sixth with an RBI single and a two-run double. By then, Ohio knew that its chances at making it out of the loser’s bracket were slim to none. So, it put Brenden Roder on the mound — who would have most likely started the next game had Ohio defeated Toledo.
Roder faced the same fate as every other Ohio pitcher though. The Rockets took him for all he had, and Roder allowed three runs.
Ohio simply didn’t have its bats Friday. It was out-hit 12 to eight and made matters worse by leaving seven runners on base. Ohio’s eight hits was the second-lowest total of the MAC Tournament so far, with the lowest being Ohio’s seven against Ball State Thursday.
Yet, the Bobcats didn’t fare like that against the Rockets last time the two faced off. They teed off against the Rockets easily and collected 45 hits over four games. However, when the Bobcats don’t hit well, they rarely win. That showed on Friday.
It wasn’t the way Ohio wanted to go out, being left out in the rain. The painful loss soaked into Ohio as Toledo cheered on the way back to the home dugout.
Even though the Bobcats were sad they had lost, a different emotion came from their dugout: gratitude.
Moore expressed nothing but appreciation for his team after the loss. His first season as Ohio’s official head coach had just ended and so did the collegiate careers of 11 seniors. It was a bittersweet moment as he thanked his team for the season, as even if the ending wasn’t the best, Ohio still had its best finish in the MAC since 2017 this season.
“This team was a good team,” Moore said. “Good kids, good students, good people … they gave everything, their all, throughout the whole year. I appreciate those guys so much.”