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Ohio Baseball Battles To Beat Western Michigan, Even Weekend Series

Ohio Baseball Battles To Beat Western Michigan, Even Weekend Series

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By Mike Ashcraft

Box Score (PDF)

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (21-28, 9-14 MAC) kept its postseason conference tournament hopes alive by battling to beat Western Michigan (21-23, 10-11 MAC), 10-7, and even the Mid-American Conference weekend series on Saturday (May 12) Bob Wren Stadium.

The Bobcats bounced back from a tough 7-6 setback to the Broncos on Friday (May 13) in the series opener. Saturday's victory also snapped a seven-game losing skid for Ohio.

Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-4 with his team-high 15th home run of 2018, a walk, two RBIs and three runs scored. The contest marked his team-high 24th multi-hit game of the season, team-high 15th multi-RBI game of the year and team-high eighth with at least three its. He has now hit seven home runs over the last seven games and has gone deep in four-straight games. Redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.) finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored, marking his eighth multi-hit game of the season and second with at least three hits. Sophomore catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) tallied two singles and scored a run. He recorded his 14th multi-hit game of the year, which ranks second on the squad. 

Western Michigan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Junior shortstop Connor Smith sent a one-out double to right center, then scored the game's first run on a double to left center by junior third baseman Jimmy Roche. Roche then scored one out later when junior catcher Jesse Forestell reached on an Ohio fielding error.

A spectacular defensive play gave Ohio some life in the third. Junior left fielder Nate Grys gave a pitch a ride deep to center field and appeared to have hit a home run. However, center fielder Sebastian Fabik (Lebanon, Ohio) leapt and snagged the ball before it cleared the wall, robbing Grys with a SportsCenter Top 10-worthy play.

The Bobcats used the momentum from Fabik's web gem to plate their first run in the home half of the inning. Sophomore shortstop Trevor Hafner (Perrysburg, Ohio) coaxed a one-out walk, then advanded to third when Fabik reached on a fielder's choice and a Western Michigan error. Rott made the Broncos pay for their mistake when he sent a single back up the middle to score Hafner and cut Ohio's deficit to 2-1.

Western Michigan retaliated in the fourth, however, as redshirt freshman first baseman Logan Hudson hit a one-out single up the middle to set the table for sophomore second baseman Drew Devine to hit a two-run home run to left center and extend the Broncos' lead to 4-1.

Ohio cut Western Michigan's lead in half again, though, in the bottom of the frame, as senior third baseman Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) led off with a double to left and scored on a single to center by Sargent.

After redshirt senior right-handed pitcher/designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) forced Western Michigan to strand a pair of runners on scoring position in the top of the fifth, the Bobcats seized control of the game with a five-run bottom half. Fabik got things started by drawing a walk, and Rott followed with a single to center. One out later, Klein coaxed a walk to load the bases for Ohio. Western Michigan then turned to its bullpen, replacing senior southpaw starting pitcher Jacob Piechota with redshirt sophomore right-hander Jack Szott. Fabik tagged up from third and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Giannini to make it a one-run contest. Sargent delivered a game-tying base hit to left center that plated Rott. Senior left fielder Evan Bourn (Overland Park, Kan.) then put Ohio in control when he belted a three-run home run to right to give the Bobcats a 7-4 advantage.

"It was a great feeling," said Bourn of his homer. "I just tried to live up every second of it. I was sitting on fastball away, and if he left something up off-speed, try to put a good swing on it. Luckily, I got a pitch that I could handle, and it was at a good time."

Ohio kept piling on with two more runs in the sixth. Rott coaxed a one-out walk, then advanced to third on a single to center by Piechnick. After Western Michigan replaced sophomore right-hander Zach Mehelich with junior lefty Matt McConnell, Rott scored on a passed ball. A single to right by Klein moved Piechnick up to third, and Piechnick scored one-out later on an infield single to short by Sargent to make it 9-4 in favor of Ohio.

The Broncos put a dent in Ohio's lead by scoring three runs on three hits and an Ohio error in the seventh. Redshirt junior designated hitter Andrew Stone coaxed a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a base hit to center by Smith and then scored on a two-base throwing error by the Bobcats that allowed Roche to reached second safely. One out later, both Smith and Roche scored on a single up the middle by Forestell, cutting Ohio's lead to 9-7. After freshman right fielder Blake Dunn doubled to left to put two runners in scoring position for the Broncos, freshman right-hander Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) entered the game to pitch for the Bobcats and got a huge third out, getting Hudson to fly out to right. 

The Bobcats gave themselves some more breathing room in the eighth when Rott smashed a leadoff home run to right.

Kutt then came back out to pitch the top of the ninth. After hitting Grys with a pitch with one out, walking Forestell and surrendering a single through the left side by Dunn, Kutt got Hudson to hit into a game-ending 4-3-3 double play to seal the win for Ohio.

Klein picked up the victory on the mound for Ohio after throwing five innings, improving to 4-1 on the year. He permitted four runs -- three of which were earned -- on seven hits and a walk. Kutt notched his second career save, striking out one while allowing two hits and a walk over 2.2 scoreless frames of relief.

Devine led Western Michigan's bats, going 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk. Smith and Roche each went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. Roche also collected an RBI. Dunn finished with a double and a single.

Piechota took the loss for the Broncos, dropping to 3-7 on the season. He surrendered five runs -- four of which were earned -- on five hits and four walks. He struck out two.

"It's just a really good feeling," said Bourn of the win. "Last night didn't go the way we wanted. We swung it well; it just ended up not going in our favor. Coach (Rob) Smith said to keep your head up and keep playing, and that's what we did. Luckily, it came out in our favor. We still have a chance to make the tournament. We've just got to focus on winning these next games and taking it game-by-game."

Ohio will go for its third league series win of 2018 when it battles Western Michigan on Sunday (May 13) in a 1 p.m. ET Senior Day showdown at The Wren. Prior to the game, the Bobcats will honor the careers of left-handed pitcher Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio), right-handed pitcher Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio), Bourn, catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Giannini, right-handed pitcher Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.), Klein, right-handed pitcher Josh Petersen (Deshler, Ohio), right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) and left-handed pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio). Sophomore left-handed pitcher Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio) is scheduled to start on the mound for Ohio and face junior lefty Chris Modrzynski of the Broncos. The series finale will mark another 'Sunday Funday', with all fans receiving free admission courtesy of OhioHealth. Max McDulin will have the call of the action on WOUB 1340 AM and online on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet. The contest will also be streamed live by OhioBobcatTV via YouTube.