The ball launched off Cody Gaertner’s bat and Northern Illinois’s outfielders watched it sail over the right-center field fence to tie the game, in the bottom half of the third inning, to knot the game up at two. That was just the beginning of the back and forth affair at Bob Wren Stadium in the Ohio Bobcats’ (9-26, 5-8 MAC) Friday evening 5-4 win over the Northern Illinois Huskies(14-21, 9-4 MAC).
The home run came after the Huskies got on the board first in the top half of the inning with two runs.
“Cody’s home run was big in the sense that they scored those two runs and to come back out and tie the game up quickly, I think showed our team that we were in the game and we were going to have a chance to win it,” head coach Rob Smith said.
After tying the game, the Bobcats claimed their first lead of the game in the bottom half of the fourth inning.
Dan Schmidt sent a ball to Huskies third baseman Hook, who bobbled the ball, allowing Schmidt to reach base. Scott White was hit by a pitch to put two men on base. Kyle Dean perfectly placed a bunt down the third base line to load the bases with no outs.
The Bobcats broke the tie with a sacrifice fly to deep center field off Ben Otto’s bat, advancing all runners and scoring Schmidt.
Ohio missed the opportunity to score more runs, leaving two men on base. The Bobcats left nine men on base over the course of the game.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score more runs,” Smith said. “Their guy did a good job to his credit, battling through a bases-loaded, one-out situation, a second and third, no outs situation so you know, I thought we probably should have put more runs on the board than what we did.”
The Bobcats held the lead until the sixth inning, when starting pitcher Jake Miller ran into trouble, nursing a 3-2 lead. The Bobcats would not escape the inning with the lead intact. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Miller walked Landon Tenhagen and gave up a single to Micah McCulloch. Miller got Brian Sisler to strikeout looking, but Ruzich was ready when his time came, singling to left field, bringing Tenhagen home.
Miller escaped the inning without further damage.
The Bobcats responded quickly, adding two runs in the bottom half of the sixth to put them ahead for good.
With the bases loaded, Gaertner sent a ball into left field for a sac fly, to once again give the Bobcats the lead. They didn’t stop there. Jake Madsen drilled a ball into right field to bring home Otto to bring the score to 5-3.
The Bobcats allowed Northern Illinois to bring home a run in the top half of the seventh, but Brett Barber was able to come on and finish off the game for Ohio, pitching 2 1/3 hitless innings.
“Jake did a nice job of at least getting us into the game,” Smith said. “I don’t think he was as sharp as he had been in some outings, with the four walks and three of those walks had scored but he battled, he competed. He got us deep into that game and then obviously Brett Barber was very good at the end. That’s as sharp as I’ve seen Brett all year.”
Miller went 6.2 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and four walks.
Gaertner had a big day at the plate for the Bobcats, tallying 3 RBI. Madsen and Otto each had one.