ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (17-17, 5-7 MAC) split a hard-fought Saturday (April 14) doubleheader with Eastern Michigan (13-20, 7-5 MAC) to close out a tightly contested Mid-American Conference weekend series at Bob Wren Stadium. The Bobcats held on for a 5-4 victory in game one but suffered a tough 4-3 loss to the Eagles in the second game on the twin bill.
Eastern Michigan took the weekend series from Ohio, 2-1. The Eagles picked up a 6-4 win in 10 innings in the Friday (April 13) series opener.
"We had to find a way to get a win today," said sixth-year head coach Rob Smith. "We would have liked to have had two, but at least we were able to find a split."
Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored, and sophomore left fielder Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) belted a two-run home in the bottom of the third inning to help the Bobcats edge the Eagles.
Eastern Michigan plated a run in the top of the first to open the scoring. Sophomore first baseman Zachary Owings reached first base safely via an Ohio throwing error with two outs. After redshirt freshman left fielder Jeff Timko drew a walk, freshman catcher Eli Gora doubled to left field to drive home Owings and give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
The Bobcats wrestled the lead away from Eastern Michigan in the second. Freshman second baseman Aaron Levy (Cincinnati, Ohio) led off with a base hit to right, then stole second. Senior third baseman Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) followed by coaxing a walk. Redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.) delivered a single through the left side to drive in Levy and tie the ballgame. Giannini then scored the go-ahead run when Eastern Michigan junior right-handed starting pitcher Jackson Shaver was called for a balk, giving Ohio a 2-1 lead.
The Eagles evened the score in the third when freshman center fielder Nate Jones reached with one out on another Ohio throwing error. One out later, Owings doubled to right center to plate Jones and tie things back up.
Ohio grabbed 4-2 in the home half of the frame, however, thanks to a big swing by Piechnick. Rott hit a two-out single to right, setting the table for a mammoth home run over the left field wall by Piechnick -- his fifth homer of the 2018 season.
"Maybe in batting practice," said Piechnick when asked if he had ever hit a home run as far the one he did in the third. "Once I look up and saw it in the air, I knew. Right off the bat, I actually didn't. But, once, I saw it in the air, I was like, 'That's the one.'"
Eastern Michigan made it a one-run home in the fifth, though, when freshman right fielder Shane Easter sent a one-out double to right and scored one out later on a wild pitch. The Eagles then knotted the score again in the seventh as freshman second baseman Jared Kauffman shot a leadoff single through the left side and scored one out later on a double to center by Jones. Jones attempted to stretch the hit into a triple but was thrown out at third thanks to a relay from junior center fielder Devon Garcia (Bowling Green, Ohio) to freshman shortstop Treyben Funderburg (Beavercreek, Ohio) to Giannini for a key second out.
Giannini then scored what proved to be the winning run in the eighth. He smacked a leadoff double to center and scored one out later on a sacrifice fly to center by redshirt freshman catcher Dan McCauley (Pittsburgh, Pa.) when delivered a sacrifice fly to center.
The Eagles put the tying run on first in the top of the ninth when junior designated hitter Kolton Schenker hit a leadoff single back up the middle. Ohio called upon redshirt senior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) to close out the win. Roehn, who had endured a rough stretch in which he did not produce a save in six opportunities, dug deep and delivered for his team. After redshirt sophomore Joey Sweigart, who pinch ran for Schenker, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore third baseman Nick Jones, junior pinch hitter John Rensel, Jr. put two on with one out for Eastern Michigan when he reached by way of catcher's interference. That's as far as Roehn allowed the Eagles to get, though, striking out Easter and getting Nate Jones to ground out to second to seal the victory for the Bobcats. Roehn -- Ohio's all-time saves leader with 28 for his career -- picked up his sixth save of the season.
"It felt great," said Roehn of the win and earning the save. "The last two or three weeks, it's been rough. I had some things wrong mechanically that we've been working on. It's nice to see it starting to pay off."
Freshman right-hander Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) picked up the win on the mound for Ohio, improving to 3-1 on the year. He threw 3.1 innings of relief, striking out three while allowing one earned run on three hits and a walk. Sophomore left-handed starting pitcher Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio) worked 4.2 frames, fanning two while permitting three runs -- one of which was earned -- on three hits and two walks.
In addition to Rott, McCauley and Funderburg produced multi-hit games for the Bobcats. McCauley finished 2-for-3 with an RBI while Funderburg went 2-for-4.
Senior right-handed reliever Brad Allen suffered the pitching defeat for Eastern Michigan, falling to 0-4 on the year. He struck out three while surrendering one earned run on four hits. Shaver went four innings on the mound, fanning six but giving up four earned runs on seven hits and two walks.
The Bobcats rallied back from a 4-0 deficit by scoring three in the eighth, but left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in another tough loss to Eastern Michigan.
The Eagles scored the game's first run in the second, then added another in the third. In the second, Schenker led off with a single to right, advanced to third on a base hit to left by Nick Jones and scored when Rensel, Jr. grounded into a double play. Eastern Michigan's lead increased to 2-0 in the third when Nate Jones reached on an Ohio fielding error, advanced to second when junior shortstop Max Schuemann hit an infield single, moved to second on a single to short by Owings and then scored two outs later on a single to center by Schenker.
Eastern Michigan's lead grew to 4-0 in the fifth when Schuemann drew a leadoff walk and Owings smashed two-run homer to right center.
Senior right-handed starting pitcher Luke DeVenney gave the Eagles a strong start on the mound, limiting Ohio to just two hits over the first six innings. In the seventh, McCauley led off with a walk, and Sargent followed with a single through the left side to put two on with nobody out. The Bobcats were unable to capitalize on the opportunity, though, and stranded two runners on base in the frame without scoring a run.
Ohio's bats finally awoke in the bottom of the eighth, however, to make things interesting. Rott reached on an Eastern Michigan error with one out. Piechnick followed by drawing a walk, then Giannini singled through the left side to load up the bases for the Bobcats. Rott scored on a wild pitch, Piechnick tagged up and scored from third on a sacrifice fly to center by McCauley, and, after Sargent coaxed a walk, senior left fielder Evan Bourn (Overland Park, Kan.) plated Giannini with a base hit to center to make it a one-run game.
After redshirt senior right-handed reliever Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) retired the side for the second inning a row, the Bobcats attempted to complete their comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth. Garcia led off with a single to left. One out later, Rott singled to right, and Piechnick drew a walk to load up the bases for Ohio with just one out. Unfortunately, Eastern Michigan freshman right-hander Dillon Schroeder found a way to work out of the jam, coming up with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
DeVenney picked up the pitching win for Eastern Michigan, improving to 3-1 on the season. He fanned seven over seven scoreless innings while allowing four hits and three walks. Schroeder, who picked up his first career save for the Eagles, struck out three while giving up two hits and a walk in 1.1 innings of relief.
Nick Jones finished 3-for-4 with a double to lead the Eagles at the plate. Owings went 2-for-4 with his home run while Schenker tallied a pair of singles, drove in a run and scored another.
Garcia led Ohio's bats with a 2-for-5 effort that included a double -- the lone multi-hit performance of the game for Ohio.
Redshirt senior right-hander Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), who started on the mound for the Bobcats after missing his last two scheduled starts due to injury, threw two innings. He took the pitching defeat, dropping to 3-1 on the year. Klein allowed one earned run on four hits.
Ohio renews its rivalry with regional rival Marshall in a pair of midweek games next week. The Bobcats visit Huntington, W. Va., on Tuesday (April 17) for a 3 p.m. ET matchup against the Thundering Herd at Kennedy Center YMCA Field. On Wednesday (April 18), Ohio hosts Marshall in a 6 p.m. ET contest at Bob Wren Stadium.