ATHENS, Ohio -- Behind clutch pitching and defense, the Ohio baseball team (19-20, 5-7 MAC) earned a key 3-2 win over Mid-American Conference East Division archrival Miami (16-25, 3-9 MAC) to clinch the weekend series on Sunday (April 23) at Bob Wren Stadium.
The Bobcats opened the weekend with a 9-5 victory on Friday (April 21). The RedHawks rebounded with a 3-1 win on Saturday (April 22). Ohio took a series from Miami for the second time in three seasons and won a home series over its archrivals for the first time since 2011.
Ohio utilized the services of four pitchers and took advantage of several big plays in the field to beat Miami in the series finale.
The Bobcats broke through for two runs in the bottom of the third to grab an early advantage. Senior center fielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.) led off with a double down the left field line. Senior second baseman Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) followed by laying down a sacrifice bunt. Miami freshman right-handed starting pitcher Grant Hartwig tried to throw Ibarra out going to third but was off the mark, allowing Black to reach on a fielder's choice and Ibarra to score the contest's first run. Black then advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a double to left by sophomore first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.).
Making a spot start in place of injured redshirt junior righty Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), senior right-handed starting pitcher Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) was strong on the mound through the first four innings for Ohio, pitching four scoreless frames and giving up just two hits and a walk while tallying three strikeouts.
"He hadn't had one all year. He's traditionally pitching in the sixth or seventh or eighth inning," said fifth-year head coach Rob Smith of Colletti's first start of the 2017 season and third of his career. "Today was a different day. We talked about it earlier this week, with Michael Klein out, that somebody was going to have to step up and help. Man, he was outstanding. Fifty-plus pitches, which is more than he's thrown in any outing all year. To get us that deep into the game was a big lift for us."
Unfortunately for Ohio, Miami's bats came to life in the top of the fifth. Sophomore catcher Hayden Senger led off by being hit by a pitch. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior shortstop Carlos Texidor. Redshirt junior right-handed reliever Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) entered from the bullpen for the Bobcats after sophomore center fielder Dallas Hall drew a walk, but senior designated hitter Tyler Harris tied the game with a two-run double to right center. After redshirt senior third baseman Adam Yacek singled to right to put runners on the corners for the RedHawks, Ohio turned to its bullpen again -- this time giving the ball to senior righty Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio). Redshirt junior first baseman Ross Haffey drew a walk to load the bases for Miami with one out, but Rudnicki struck out freshman second baseman Landon Stephens and got junior right fielder Brooks Urich to line out to center to prevent further damage and keep the score tied.
The Bobcats retook the lead in the home half of the fifth. Black was hit by a pitch to lead things off, then advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt that resulted in a Miami error. One out later, freshman designated hitter Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) drew a walk to put two on. Black then scored the go-ahead run on a two-base fielding error that put senior third baseman Connor Callery (Covington, Ky.) on, giving Ohio a 3-2 edge.
Miami led off the top of the sixth with a double down the left field line by freshman left fielder Cal Elvers, but Callery made a spectacular diving catch in foul territory on a bunt attempt by Senger, preventing Elvers from advancing another 90 feet. Rudnicki then got two ground outs to get out of the inning.
In the top of the seventh, redshirt junior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) came on in relief of Rudnicki after Yacek hit a one-out single and got Haffey to strike out swinging and Stephens to ground out to third to end the frame.
The top of the eighth saw Elvers send a one-out single to right and move up to second on a wild pitch, but Roehn and Ohio escaped damage again by getting Texidor to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.
The RedHawks mounted their greatest threat in the ninth. Hall led off with a double down the left field line. Senior Steve Sada then entered to pinch hit and was hit by a pitch, putting two on with nobody out. Yacek grounded over to third, though, allowing Callery to force Hall out, then make the throw to first to complete the double play. Roehn ended the game by striking out Haffey.
"There's a reason we're one of the top-five defensive teams in the country," said Smith. "One, because we work on it. Two, our kids take a ton of pride in it. And, three, they make plays. If you look at what the left side of our infield did, those aren't just routine plays. To be able to come up with those plays in such big situations, that allows you to pitch a heck of a lot better."
Colletti set the tone for the win with his strong start.
"Coach Smith said he wanted two to three (innings) out of me just to get us into the game," said Colletti. "I just kept going, trying to get us through five."
Rudnicki picked up the pitching victory, improving to 2-3 after striking out one and allowing just two hits and a walk in two innings. Roehn earned his career-high ninth save after tossing 2.2 scoreless innings, fanning two while permitting two hits and a walk. He has tallied 16 career saves, which ranks third in program history.
"This whole weekend, they were special," said Smith. "I think the bullpen gave up two runs in about 20 innings, when you consider Colletti, Rudnicki, (sophomore right-hander Kenny) Ogg, Roehn and Blessing. What those guys did was truly special."
Ibarra finished with a pair of doubles to lead the Bobcats at the plate. He has now posted a team-high 16 multi-hit games in 2017. Callery led off the second inning with a double down the right field line, extending his hitting streak to a team-high 11-straight games.
Harris led Miami's bats with a 2-for-4 effort that included a double and two RBIs. Elvers recorded a double and a single while Yacek posted a pair of singles.
Hartwig lasted 3.2 innings on the mound for the RedHawks, giving up two runs -- one of which was earned -- on five hits and a walk. He struck out three. Senior right-hander Brad Schwartz took the loss, falling to 2-4 on the year. He gave up one unearned run on two walks while striking out four in 4.1 innings of relief.
Ohio returns to the road next weekend for a three-game series in Kalamazoo, Mich., against MAC West Division foe Western Michigan. The series opener is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET next Friday (April 28) at Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field. The Saturday (April 29) and Sunday (April 30) matchups are both set for 1 p.m. ET starts. 'Voice of the Bobcats' Russ Eisenstein will have the call of all three games on WOUB 1340 AM and online on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet.