With the temperature falling and night creeping up in the distance, Mitch Longo stepped to the plate to lead off the ninth inning for the Bobcats. He waited on a couple, then took a big swing and knocked it to left field. He rounded first and took a calculated risk, using a throw that was just slightly off to make it in for a double.
“He does a good job swinging the bat,” coach Rob Smith said. “He gets his share of hits, he’s a very explosive player. He does a very good job, and I appreciate how he plays. He plays the game pretty hard. We’re glad we have him, and we hope he continues this the rest of the year.”
In the first inning, with the sun out to warm up the players, Longo took the same risk. He waited on a couple pitches before rocketing one to right field. He took the turn and saw an opening, but was caught at second base. It was one of those days for the Bobcats, when things needed to come together, they just didn’t. Not until it couldn’t make much difference anyway. The Bobcats (4-17) fell to the Youngstown State Penguins (3-14) by a score of 11-4 on Wednesday night.
“You just hope that you have your best, most competitive at bats in those situations,” Smith said. “When you have men on base, you just hope somebody can step up and get a hit. We’ve just not been able to do that here of late, but we’ll break through with that. Hopefully, we continue to get base runners on and somebody’s going to come up with that big hit when we need it. We’re going to put some runs on the board.”
It wasn’t all bad for the Bobcats, in fact there were a few positives to look back on when things were said and done. Longo was able to go 3-for-4 and score two runs, helping to increase his batting average to .429 on the season. Jake Madsen went 2-for-5 and had two RBIs to help give the Bobcats some much needed offense.
Jake Miller even contributed some great pitching through the first four innings, despite playing second fiddle to the offense at times. He managed to shutout the Penguins through four innings, but found his doom in the fifth when he allowed three earned runs through walking two and allowing a double.
“Any one of you guys could’ve stood up there without a bat and found yourself on base when you walk ten guys,” Smith said. “The five of you could’ve scored five or six runs at least without swinging when you walk ten guys in a game. You look on the scoreboard and they have 11 runs on 11 hits, they had one extra base hit today and scored 11 runs. So as I told the team, this losing streak will continue if we continue to walk batters at the rate that we’re doing. It’s just no more complicated than that. Baseball’s a pretty simple game — throw it over the plate, make routine plays, get timely hitting and you’ll win a lot of games. Unfortunately, we aren’t getting timely hitting. We’re struggling to make plays, and we’re doing not a good enough job of throwing it over the plate. We have to continue to get better at that, and until we do, we’re going to continue to see these issues where we give up runs in bunches.”
The bullpen was no help to Miller, though. Spencer Sapp came in for relief first, facing two batters and giving up a walk and a hit. Logan Cozart relieved Sapp and was the only pitcher in the inning to force outs, getting a strikeout, fly out and ground out to end the inning.
It couldn’t just stop there, though. Christian Botter struggled to get by the bats and gave up two runs, Jeremy Cronk relieved him and took care of the sixth, then Corey Wells handled the seventh. Nick Nauracy and Gerry Salisbury had to split the eighth inning, and Sean Kennedy came in for the ninth to close it out.
“We knew we were going to use a lot of guys today, and I was really happy with how Jake pitched for the first four innings,” Smith said. “I thought he did really good, actually a little bit of return to the form that we saw last year through those first four innings. Then the walks got to him, he had the two walks himself, then it kind of got away from him there. It was good to see him pitch good for four innings. Unfortunately, some of the guys that followed him just kind of added on to the walk totals and we created a lot of situations for them that they didn’t earn. And that’s how you get beat.”
While the game was still relatively close, though, Smith made an unordinary decision. Similar to the series with Central Michigan, he removed the hot bat for what could be a better option. Taylor Emody had gone 2-for-3 in the game, but with the bases loaded in the seventh and down 6-2 with two outs, he put in Scott White as a pinch hitter. Scott had a few sail just into foul ball territory, and ultimately grounded out to shortstop.
“Well, I thought we had an opportunity there to get ourselves back in the game,” Smith said. “We had Scott White on the bench, who, Scott’s one of our better hitters. Just took an opportunity to put one of our better hitters into a game situation in hopes that he might deliver.”
The game was still in some ways better than the one from last year, when Youngstown State defeated the Bobcats 20-15 in a game that took well over three hours to finish. Ohio now prepares for a weekend series with Western Michigan that has been moved from Kalamazoo to Athens due to poor field conditions.