Baseball: 3 things to watch for ahead of Ohio's back-to-back, mid-week games against Marshall

 

Ohio’s Aaron Levy swings the bat during Ohio’s game against Eastern Michigan on April 13. The Bobcats beat the Eagles 5-4 in their first game of a doubleheader. (FILE)

 

Ohio will play two non-conference games this week, and both are against the same team: Marshall.

The Bobcats will travel to Huntington, West Virginia, on Tuesday to play the Thundering Herd, with first pitch set for 3 p.m. The Bobcats will then return to Athens to play the Thundering Herd on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Ohio is coming off a 4-3 loss against Eastern Michigan. The Bobcats lost the series against the Eagles, dropping their third MAC series of the season.

Offense consistency

For about the past week, the Bobcats’ offense hasn’t been consistent. After notching 35 hits and 23 runs in the Northern Illinois series, the Bobcats haven’t been able to string together solid offensive performances.

During the first game of the Toledo series, Ohio had a season-high 15 runs. But in the final two games of the series, the Bobcats combined for three runs.

The Bobcats have also had games in which they have multiple hitless innings. During the series finale against the Eagles, the Bobcats didn’t have a hit in four innings — and they didn’t score until the bottom of the eighth.

Still, coach Rob Smith said he thought the Bobcats’ energy and effort was good against the Eagles.

The Bobcats have a batting average of .274 on the season, but since MAC play began, they’ve had a batting average of .268. That’s not a big drop, but it’s one that shows the slight dip in the Bobcats’ offensive output.

If the Bobcats can bring consistency back to their offense, then they’ll be in position to win more games.

The bullpen has performed well

With two of the Bobcats’ starting pitchers recently being hampered by injuries, the team’s bullpen has had to throw more.

Michael Klein is recovering from a tweaked elbow, but he is making progress in returning to his starting pitching duties. Klein started in the series finale against the Eagles, his first start since March 24. Butch Baird, the Bobcats’ Sunday starter, has an injury, which is why he didn’t pitch against the Eagles. Even with two of the Bobcats’ weekend starters trying to get healthy, the bullpen has taken pride in having to produce more on the mound.

“It sucks ’cause obviously they’re two really good starters for us that are down,” closer Jake Roehn said after the series finale Saturday. “But we definitely have guys that are stepping up and are doing a really good job.”

Eddie Kutt, Cory Blessing and Kenny Ogg are just some of the pitchers who have thrown well for the Bobcats’ bullpen. Each have pitched at least 20 innings, and Ogg leads the trio in ERA (3.54).

Along with the bullpen, Derek Carr started three games during Klein’s recovery. Carr has allowed nine hits and two earned runs in his three starts. Smith said after the series finale against the Eagles that Klein is still not fully healthy. Klein threw two innings and allowed one earned run in his start Saturday.

The MAC standings and push to the championship

The Bobcats (17-17, 5-7 MAC) have five MAC series left this season, and they are currently tied for sixth with Ball State.

Only the top six teams in the conference make it to the MAC Championship, so each of the remaining conference games will be important. For Ohio, the two non-conference games against Marshall are a chance to improve on offense.

The Bobcats will need as much offensive output as possible in this weekend’s series against Kent State (22-10, 9-3 MAC), the top team in the conference. The Golden Flashes have five players who are batting .300 or higher.

 

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