Ohio’s Rudy Rott catches a ball during the Bobcats’ game against Northern Illinois on March 31. (FILE)
UPDATE: This game has been rescheduled to be played April 11 at Bob Wren Stadium at 6 p.m.
One of the biggest mistakes Ohio could make Tuesday would be to lack the energy it had in Sunday’s series finale against Northern Illinois.
The Bobcats defeated the Huskies 12-4 as Michael Klein and Aaron Levy both smacked three-run home runs in the bottom of the fourth, giving Ohio a 12-0 lead heading into the fifth inning. Ohio had a season-high 17 hits during the last game of the series; its lineup hit as well as it has all season.
But having that same level of energy against Shawnee State, a non-conference opponent from Portsmouth, will be important for the Bobcats. The Bobcats are slated to face the Bears on Tuesday at Bob Wren Stadium at 6 p.m.
While Mid-American Conference games hold significance for the standings and consequently the tournament, non-conference matchups are important as well.
Coach Rob Smith wants his team to play the same way each game, no matter who the opponent is.
“We’ll have some younger guys on the mound, so throwing strikes is going to be critical,” Smith said after the series finale Sunday. “But Shawnee is going to come in here, and they’re going to be very mindful about trying to prove a point to us.”
The Shawnee State game will be the Bobcats’ first weekday home game of the season. As Smith mentioned, pitching will be important. During the weekends, the Bobcats have a normal starting rotation of Gerry Salisbury, Michael Klein and Butch Baird. But during the week, Ohio doesn’t have a starter named.
Before the NIU series, Smith said he uses more pitchers during the week for a few reasons: He wants to see who can throw strikes and be productive on the mound, and he wants to see who can contribute from the bullpen on the weekends.
“If you get into those midweek games and guys aren’t throwing strikes, we’re going to start using other guys,” Smith said last Thursday.
Whoever throws the first few innings Tuesday, it will be important that he has a good start. Baird did that Sunday as he allowed two hits and one walk in five innings.
Baird’s production helped set up Ohio’s lineup to hit well and drive in multiple runs. The six runs in the bottom of the fourth Sunday were the most runs the Bobcats have scored in an inning this season.
Having the right mindset and mentality are concepts that are just as important as practice when it comes to game preparation — and that’s for any sport. One team, particularly a good one, may underestimate its opponent.
But the Bobcats know that maintaining the energy they had in the final game against NIU will be the key for Tuesday.
“You’ve just got to play as well as you can,” Levy said. “I mean don’t look at who you’re playing, just play as well as you can.”