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Ohio Baseball Rallies Again To Stun Kent State, Earn Series Win

Ohio Baseball Rallies Again To Stun Kent State, Earn Series Win

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By Mike Ashcraft

Box Score (PDF)

KENT, Ohio -- For the second game in a row, the Ohio baseball team (19-20, 7-8 MAC) erased a deficit going into the seventh inning to beat Mid-American Conference rival Kent State (24-12, 10-5 MAC), plating five runs in the top of the seventh on its way to earning a 6-4 victory on Sunday (April 22) at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.

The comeback victory clinched the weekend series win for the Bobcats. Ohio took a series from the Golden Flashes for the third time in the last four years and came away with a series victory at Kent for the second time in the last four years. Kent State won the series opener, 5-3, on Friday (April 20), but the Bobcats erased a 3-0 lead for the Golden Flashes in the top of the seventh and ultimately earned a 5-3 triumph in 12 innings on Saturday (April 21). Dating back to the 2015 season, Ohio is now 8-6 against Kent State.

"Obviously, we're doing a good job of responding to adversity," said sixth-year head coach Rob Smith. "With some of the injuries we've had and things we're trying to navigate through, guys have to step up. Today, they did. I'm really, really proud of our guys. We could have rolled over when we got down 4-0, but we didn't. We just kept fighting, and we came up with a win."

Ohio earned its eighth comeback win of the 2018 season and fourth when trailing after six innings.

Senior third baseman Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) got the Bobcats' rally going with a one-out double down the left field line. After freshman center fielder Sebastian Fabik (Lebanon, Ohio) was hit by a pitch, sophomore shortstop Trevor Hafner (Perrysburg, Ohio) singled to third to load up the bases for Ohio. Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) then delivered a two-RBI double to right to drive home Giannini and Fabik, cutting Kent State's lead to 4-2. The Golden Flashes yanked senior left-handed starting pitcher Eli Kraus from the mound in favor of redshirt senior right-hander Robert Zeigler, but Hafner scored when sophomore catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) reached on a Kent State fielding error. After redshirt senior designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was hit by a pitch to reload the bases for Ohio, junior left fielder Devon Garcia (Bowling Green, Ohio) drew a walk to push across Garcia and tie the ballgame. One out later, the Bobcats took the lead when Piechnick raced home on a passed ball by the Golden Flashes.

The Bobcats added on an insurance run in the eighth. Giannini was once again the catalyst, leading off with a base hit to center, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Fabik and to third on another miscue by the Golden Flashes that put Hafner on base. Rott then lifted a sacrifice fly to left, allowing Giannini to tag up from third and score and extend Ohio's lead to two runs.

While Ohio's bats ignited in the seventh and eighth, junior right-handed reliever Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) gave the Bobcats strong work out of the bullpen. The Golden Flashes put a runner on with one out in the bottom of the eighth when senior catcher Tim DalPorto singled to third. The Bobcats got out of the jam, though, when Ogg got sophomore designated hitter Patrick Ferguson to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 doube play. In the ninth, junior first baseman Pete Schuler drew a one-out walk. One out later, redshirt senior right fielder Nick Kanavas was down to his last strike but managed to coax a walk to put two on for the Golden Flashes. Ogg locked down the victory for Ohio, though, when he got redshirt senior center fielder Mason Mamarella to ground out to short to end the game.

"We've got a lot of guys in the back half of the bullpen that can step up and take care of the injuries they have. When they come back, we'll be happy to have them back, and it'll be easier," said Ogg of the job he and the rest of the Ohio pitching staff have done despite injuries that have prevented Klein and senior lefty Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) from pitching over the past few weeks.

Ogg picked up his first win on the mound of the season. He struck out three over five innings of relief while allowing just three hits and two walks. Ogg was one of three pitchers utilized by the Bobcats. Redshirt senior right-handed starting pitcher Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) worked 3.1 innings, fanning three while permitting three runs -- one of which was earned -- on a hit and two walks. Freshman southpaw Brett Manis (Port Huron, Mich.) secured the final two outs in the fourth, striking out while giving up one earned run on three hits.

"The best thing about it is none of them get caught up in roles," said Smith of the work of his pitching staff this weekend. "They know their job is to go out and get outs, whether it's early, late, middle of the game. That's what we've got guys doing. They're just taking the ball and just getting after hitters and getting outs."

Rott guided Ohio's offense with a 2-for-4 effort that included a double, three RBIs and a run scored. He posted his team-high 17th multi-hit game of the season. Giannini finished 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. 

"This team loves to compete," said Rott of the win. "We don't care where we're at. We have a lot of confidence in all of our teammates that we're going to go out there and give it our all for everyone out there. We have a great group of guys out here that just love to compete and play hard until they tell us we're done."

Kent State took advantage of several Ohio miscues in the bottom of the third to grab a 3-0 lead. Schuler drew a leadoff walk, and junior shortstop Josh Hollander followed with a single to left. Kanavas laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners 90 feet, but Ohio committed a throwing error on the play, allowing him to reach safely and Schuler to score the contest's first run. Mamarella then bunted home Hollander to make it 2-0. A wild pitch allowed Kanavas to scamper home from third to give the Golden Flashes a three-run frame.

The Golden Flashes extended their lead to 4-0 in the fifth. Hollander and Kanavs got the frame started with back-to-back singles to give Kent State runners on the corners with nobody out. After Kanavas stole second, Hollander scored on an RBI ground out to first by Mamarella.

Kanavas, DalPorto and Hollander each tallied two hits to lead Kent State at the plate. Hollander scored two runs while Kanavas scored a run and drew a walk. Mamarella drove in two of the Golden Flashes' four runs. Schuler walked twice.

Redshirt senior right-handed reliever Robert Zeigler took the loss on the mound for Kent State, dropping to 1-1 on the year. He gave up an unearned run on a walk and a hit batter. Kraus worked 6.1 innings, fanning seven but surrendering four runs -- three of which were earned -- on eight hits. Redshirt senior lefty Jared Skolnicki threw 2.2 innings of relief, striking out two while allowing an unearned run on a hit and a walk.

Ohio is scheduled to play just one midweek game in the coming week, with a visit to Dayton on deck on Tuesday (April 24). First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. ET.