With a 1-2 count against the leadoff batter for the eighth inning, Jake Roehn looked for the sign and put all the force he had left into his pitch. He whizzed his 110th pitch of the game by Jared Kujawa and added a fourth strikeout to his total. He would throw 11 more pitches in the inning to work out of it and finish his night.
“Coming into it, I told Jake Roehn he’s got 120 pitches and I’m not taking him out until he gets there regardless of what was going to happen,” said Bobcats head coach Rob Smith. “He probably would’ve thrown the whole game, the inning where we had a couple errors after the second one, he threw 15 more pitches that probably kept him from throwing a complete game tonight.”
The Ohio Bobcats (5-17) have finally won a game in Athens this season, taking a 5-3 victory over the Western Michigan Broncos (10-12). After the win, their home record is 0-7. It sounds strange and unbelievable, but despite winning at their home field of Bob Wren Stadium, the Bobcats are still yet to get a win while batting in the bottom half of an inning. Either way, the win helped break a 9-game losing streak and gave the Bobcats a big boost.
“I count it as a win,” said Smith. “Whether it’s on the road, at home, in a parking lot, if we played it on the field hockey field, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I’ll take a win in any way we can get it right now.”
The change from home to away wasn’t much of a factor, said Smith. The players reiterated that, saying no matter where it’s played, baseball is just baseball.
“It was kind of weird,” said starting pitcher Jake Roehn. “But we settled in and got used to it after the first couple innings. We were just out here playing baseball, it’s what we’ve been doing our whole life. So home or away, it’s still the same game.”
Friday was a night of firsts for this season for the Bobcats, managing to tie their season high for hits in at game at 16, first achieved in their first game of the season against Murray State and at Longwood in early March. Leading the way, as expected, was Mitch Longo who went 3-5 all within the first four innings.
Longo wasn’t the only one to show off lead-off hitting skills. The Bobcats managed to have a lead-off single in six innings. Nick Bredeson helped to lead the charge for the Bobcats going 2-3 with an RBI alongside typical big performers John Adryan and Jake Madsen each with two hits and an RBI.
“That’s a big part of our offense,” says Smith. “When you’re an execution based offense like we are, the leadoff man means a lot. You can bunt, you can hit-and-run, you might be able to steal. It just creates a lot of situations that can lead to runs. When you do that, you’re going to put yourself in a good scenario to do that. But even more so, you’re going to keep pressure on the other team, and I think we did that tonight. Where we’ve seen in some games, certainly when we’ve gotten down, there’s not a lot of pressure on their pitcher or their defense to make plays. Tonight it was a tight game, we were getting lead-off guys on. You can tell, when you put pressure on a team, they’ll make mistakes like anybody else. So hopefully we continue to do that tomorrow.”
Despite a breakout performance by the batters for the Bobcats, the spotlight was firmly placed on Jake Roehn, who didn’t give up an earned run in the contest. Instead, the three runs were given up in the fourth inning each off of errors at shortstop. However, where you would normally see the Bobcats start to descend from there, they battled back.
“I give a lot of credit to Jake,” said Smith. “He hung in there. We’ve seen so many times this year where an inning like that would define the game. It would be the three or four runs there, then another three or four after that. I thought it was really important our offense came back after that inning and we put another run on the board. So it got the momentum back in our dugout and I think it made our guys feel a lot more confident that it wasn’t another of those ‘oh here we go again’ situations. We actually kind of battled back, got another run on the board, and obviously Jake shut them down pretty good from there.”
Roehn said the key to getting this win was in trusting one another. Following the Youngstown State loss, the players held a player-only meeting to hash out some differences and it seems to have given them a boost.
“We trust each other,” says Roehn. “Trusting each other is huge in this game, because you can’t do it all yourself. You have to trust one another, and they’ll make plays and trust your offense to get hits and score runs, which we did today. It’s pretty nice.”
Corey Wells topped off the game with a save, taking care of the ninth inning with two strikeouts and 20 pitches thrown, continuing to be a rare stabilizing force out of the bullpen. Even with this win, the Bobcats are focused on the next game on Saturday afternoon and keeping the momentum going for a hopeful series win.
“We obviously haven’t done anything yet,” said first baseman Jake Madsen, who made his 127 straight start for the Bobcats. “We have a chance tomorrow to win the series, but we haven’t done that in all the time Coach Smith’s been here. So if we can win the series tomorrow, I think that would be a huge confidence boost tomorrow.“
Looking for his first series win as a head coach, Smith is weary of letting up the pressure at all, wanting his players to come in focused as they were on Friday.
“The thing we have to do is not have a letdown,” says Smith. “Unfortunately it’s been what we’ve seen all year, where we’ve won a Friday night game and not been able to sustain that level of focus and effort. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that they come out tomorrow and they continue to do that, and a lot of it is going to have to do with Jake Rudnicki on the mound. He’s going to have to attack the zone and force those guys to swing the bat, and we’ll have to make a few plays behind him. If we get caught up in a bunch of walks and things like that, it’s going to make it a lot harder on ourselves. But Jake’s been good the last several weeks, so I hope he can continue that trend.”