Gerry Salisbury pitches to Northern Illinois during the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
Butch Baird gave Ohio the start it needed.
After the Bobcats split a doubleheader Saturday, coach Rob Smith emphasized that the Bobcats needed to play a clean game to defeat Northern Illinois in the series finale. The Bobcats needed Baird to allow fewer walks and consequently fewer free bases.
As Baird allowed two hits and one walk in his start Sunday, the Bobcats had a season-high 17 hits. They defeated the Huskies 12-4 at Bob Wren Stadium to win the series.
“After last night’s game, the key was to just throw it over the plate,” Smith said. “You know, force their offense to have to create their own runs.”
Smith said though Baird threw only two strikeouts, what was important was that he gave up only one walk. As Baird controlled the game on the mound, that allowed the Bobcats’ lineup to flourish and score runs.
The Bobcats had most of their success on offense in the bottom of the fourth. The Bobcats led 6-0, and they had two runners on base: Tony Giannini was on first, and Tanner Piechnick was on second. Aaron Levy then hit a three-run home run to right field, giving Ohio a 9-0 lead.
Later in the inning, the Bobcats had a similar situation. Trevor Hafner was on third and Dan McCauley on first with two outs. Michael Klein came up to bat and hit a three-run home run to left field, giving the Bobcats a 12-0 lead. Ohio had six runs and five hits in the bottom of the fourth.
For the Bobcats, the multirun inning was a product of the momentum that Levy created with the first three-run home run.
“(Hitting is) contagious, and we get a lot of energy and juices from it,” Klein said. “And it’s fun to keep it going and contribute that way.”
The Huskies scored four runs after Baird’s start ended, but Logan Jacik and Cory Blessing still allowed only a combined four hits and three walks in relief.
Hitting has been Ohio’s top strength so far this season, but what the team will need is consistent quality pitching. Gerry Salisbury struck out a career-high 11 batters Saturday, and Baird had a solid outing Sunday.
As the Bobcats prepare for the rest of MAC play, the weekend’s quality pitching has the potential to continue.
“I feel like it’s huge confidence and momentum for the starting pitchers,” Klein said of the weekend series.
The Bobcats (14-12, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) will have their first weekday home game Tuesday, when they’ll play Shawnee State at 6 p.m.