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Ohio outfielder, Pauly Mancino (5), prepares to bat the ball during a game against Western Michigan at Bob Wren Stadium, April 5, 2024, in Athens.

Baseball: Ohio's offense sputters against Western Michigan

Ohio (8-18, 4-10 Mid-American Conference) lost its sixth straight game against Western Michigan (14-13 overall, 7-4 MAC) on Saturday. The 10-1 final score was representative of what was a rough showing at the plate and on the mound for the Bobcats. 

Tim Knapschaefer got the start on the bump for Ohio, and his first inning of action was a great start to his ultimately disappointing outing. In the first, he struck out three batters and did not allow a run in the inning. Knapschaefer would go on to allow 7 total runs on 10 hits. 

While the pitching was certainly a letdown, the offense was particularly disappointing. Ohio only managed to put up a single run on seven total hits on the day, a low-scoring total for how many times it was able to get on base using the bat. 

The offense has long been the engine and bright spot of this Ohio team in what has been a not-so-stellar season so far in 2024.

Contributions from freshmen such as Pauly Mancino, JR Nelson and Trae Cassidy have proven to be important to the offense as a unit. The trio came in as first-year college players and provided productive at-bats in important spots of the lineup. 

It is impossible to talk about Ohio without mentioning Gideon Antle, the star outfielder who is leading the MAC in batting average this season. Antle has played a minimal role in the series so far, with his production being limited by stellar pitching from the Broncos.

Saturday, Western Michigan's starting pitcher, Nolan Vlcek, threw a complete game on just 69 pitches while allowing just 1 run. 

A complete game is an incredible accomplishment on its own, let alone the fact that Vlcek was able to walk off the mound for the final time after throwing just 69 pitches over nine innings. Ohio’s Knapschaefer pitched seven innings and threw 88 pitches in that timeframe, showing just how impressive the game from Vlcek really was. 

Ohio’s approach at the plate against Vlcek didn’t turn out the way Ohio Coach Craig Moore wanted it to.

“He's a fastball-predominantly guy. And you know, Coach (Kirby) McGuire had these guys prepped to be ready for the fastball,” said Moore. “If you don't get your barrel on top of the baseball, you're going to pop it up and hit lazy fly balls and we had a lot of those today … I felt that coach's plan going against him was a good plan, it just didn't really pan out for us.”

With Vlcek leading the MAC in ERA, it is no surprise that Ohio was not able to get great contact off him. 

The approach at the plate for Ohio has remained aggressive all season, resulting in Ohio having quick at-bats that usually don’t reach two-strike counts. Despite Saturday’s loss, don’t expect Ohio to switch up the game plan on offense going forward. Moore believes that part of why the offense is so successful is due to its aggressive nature. There is no reason for the team to change its approach because of one bad outing.

Hopefully, for the Bobcats, that aggressive offense approach can come through in a big way on Sunday and help get them back to winning ways. 


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