Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, May 12 newspaper on Page B1.
MUNCIE, Ind. — Ohio’s hopes of qualifying for the 2019 MAC Tournament took a major hit in a series sweep at Ball State on Friday and Saturday.
The Bobcats (16-30, 10-13 MAC) dropped all three games in the series and — pending weekend results for Western Michigan — now have dropped into seventh place in the conference standings. WMU (9-11 MAC) have a .450 winning percentage — Ohio is at .434 now — and passed the Bobcats for sixth place. Only the top six teams are eligible for the conference tournament.
Ball State (33-17, 17-5 MAC) is still in the running for the regular-season conference title, and won the series with timely offense and a strong, collective, effort from the pitching staff.
For the three game series, Ohio scored a total of seven runs. More telling, the Bobcats finished with a combined 41 strikeouts and had at least 13 strikeouts in each of the three games.
Ohio will wrap up the regular season next weekend with a three-game series at WMU beginning on Thursday.
Ball State 4, Ohio 2 (Friday)
The Cardinals used a four-run seventh inning to hand the Bobcats a tough-luck loss on Friday at First Merchant Field.
Ohio led 2-0 after scoring in the first and third innings, but a huge pinch-hit from Noah Powell swung the game in Ball State’s favor.
With Ohio leading 2-1 in the seventh, two outs, and the bases loaded, Bobcats head coach Rob Smith turned to closer Brett Manis to get the final out in the inning in a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup. But BSU countered with a second straight pinch-hitter and Powell, who had not played in two weeks, delivered.
On the first pitch from Manis, Powell laced a bases-clearing double down the left-field line for three runs and the lead.
Ball State reliever Nick Floyd (6-0) picked up the win with a stellar outing out of the bullpen. Floyd tossed four scoreless innings, and stuck out eight.
The pinch-hit double gave Ohio starter Edward Kutt IV the loss. Kutt (3-4) worked into the seventh, and struck out seven, but was charged with all four runs and four hits.
Aaron Levy hit a solo homer in the first for Ohio, and Treyben Funderburg added an RBI single in the third as the Bobcats forged a 2-0 lead.
Ball State, with the win, clinched a spot in the 2019 MAC Tournament.
Ball State 5, Ohio 0 (Saturday, game 1)
The Cardinals made history in winning the second game of the series — the first of a Saturday doubleheader.
Two Ball State pitchers combined for a nine-inning no-hitter against the Bobcats, and the game was the first nine-inning no-hitter in Cardinal history.
Starter John Baker, the MAC leader in ERA, blanked Ohio over the first seven innings. Baker (7-1) walked four, but notched nine strikeouts. Reliever Lukas Jaksich didn’t let up; Jaksich worked two hitless innings with one walk and three more strikeouts.
Ohio starter Jack Liberatore (6-5) took the loss after giving up all five runs on five hits in 5.2 innings. He walked five, and notched three strikeouts. Reliever Joe Rock finished up with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Ball State scored twice in the third, once in the fifth and twice more in the sixth to hand the Bobcats a second consecutive loss.
Ball State 6, Ohio 5 (Saturday, game 2)
The Bobcats found some offense, but it came early on and it wasn’t enough.
Ohio raced out to a 5-1 lead, but the Cardinals scored three times in the sixth to pick up the weekend, three-game sweep.
The Bobcats led 5-3 in the sixth, and had two outs. But a fielding error opened the door, and the Cardinals took advantage.
A bunt single followed the error, and then Aaron Simpson tied it 5-5 on Aaron Simpson’s two-run triple. William Baker followed with a bunt single, and Ball State took a 6-5 lead.
Once down, the Bobcats couldn’t get anything going against BSU reliever Nolan Gazouski, who picked up his first win of the season. Gazouski, who came on in the sixth, pitched 3.2 innings, closed the game and improved to 1-2 after allowing just one hit and one walk. Ohio had 10 of its last 12 batters retired in order.
Kenny Ogg (3-7) took the loss for Ohio after giving up 10 hits and all six runs in six-plus innings.
Funderburg had three hits and two RBI for the Bobcats, and Sebastian Fabik added two hits and two RBI. Rott had two hits and an RBI, and now sits at 274 career hits; he needs 284 to tie Jake Madsen for the program career record in hits.