Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, May 26 newspaper on Page B2.
AVON, Ohio — The Bobcats survived 17 innings in the longest game in the history of the Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament.
But they couldn’t get out of the next seventh inning, however.
Ohio logged two games, 26 innings and nearly nine hours on the field, but still saw its season come to an end on Friday at Sprenger Stadium. The Bobcats (20-34) staved off elimination once with a 6-5 victory over Miami in a 17-inning marathon, but fell in the next game to Northern Illinois, 6-3.
NIU (20-35), the fifth seed, punched its ticket to the loser’s bracket final of the tournament on Saturday. Ohio, the sixth seed, fell by the wayside in its quest to win a third MAC Tournament in the last five years.
The Bobcats, and senior infielder Rudy Rott, didn’t go quietly or easily. Ohio overcame a 2-0 deficit against Miami and pushed the RedHawks throughout in Friday’s opening game — which developed into the longest game in MAC Tournament history at 17 full innings and 6 hours, 16 minutes.
In the second game — which came about one hour after the win — Ohio led 2-0 through five innings but was done in by the Huskies’ five-run flurry in the seventh against a depleted bullpen.
Through it all, two-time MAC MVP Rudy Rott continued to hit. Rott was a combined 7 of 13 with a RBI in the two games and in the process became the new career hits leader in Ohio University history.
Rott began the day tied for the top spot — at 286 career hits — and grabbed the record in the fourth inning of the opener when he legged out an infield single. Rott passed Jake Madsen in the record book on the play, then kept adding to his record.
Rott had another three singles over the last 13 innings against Miami. He finished with three more hits against NIU. In his last career at-bat, Rott had an RBI single in the ninth against NIU that pulled Ohio to within 6-3.
With his seven hits on the day, Rott finished his Ohio career with 293 hits — the new gold standard in program history.
Ohio’s pitching staff was already thin after Thursday, when the Bobcats used a handful of pitchers — and threw a combined 240 pitches — in an 18-9 loss to Central Michigan. On Friday, Ohio got terrific outings from five different pitchers but ran out of gas late against NIU.
Ohio finished the tournament 2-2 overall, and outlasted higher seeds Kent State (No. 3) and Miami. The Bobcats, under seventh-year head coach Rob Smith, are now a combined 10-2 in three MAC Tournament appearances.
Ohio 6, Miami 5 (17 innings)
The tournament edition of the ‘Battle of the Bricks’ unfurled in an epic-length contest that saw both clubs use every conceivable arm to earn the right to continue play. Both teams used five pitchers to get through the 17 innings and more than six hours, both teams overcame deficits, and it wasn’t decided until the final pitch.
“It was a crazy game,” said Smith, to getsomemaction.com. “It had all kinds of things. It had replays, it had comebacks, it had everything.”
Miami led 2-0 after the second thanks to a sacrifice fly and a throwing error, but got little else against Ohio starter Joe Rock. The Bobcats tied it 2-2 in the fourth on a Miami fielding error and Aaron Levy’s bases-loaded walk.
Then the offenses were shut down. Both teams squeezed out runs in the ninth to make it 3-3, but that was the extent of the offense from the fifth through 16th innings.
Ohio got three runs in the 17th against Miami reliever Bailey Martin (5-3). Martin hit the first two batters he faced, and Trevor Hafner singled to load the bases. Zyon Avery snapped the tie with a sacrifice fly, and Sebastian Fabik made it 6-3 with a two run single.
The RedHawks nearly tied it again in the bottom half. With two on and one out, Ohio receiver Nick Kamrada gave up an RBI single and a sacrifice fly as Miami pulled to within 6-5. But Kamrada got a soft roller to first to end it, and pick up his first save of the year.
Jack Liberatore (8-5) got the win for Ohio after pitching four hitless innings of relief. Liberatore’s outing came after a strong six-inning performance from Bobcat closer Brett Manis. Manis, who came on in the seventh, pitched six innings and notched nine strikeouts. It was a career-high strikeout total for Manis, and his longest career outing.
Hafner had five hits — on five consecutive at-bats — for Ohio, while Rott added four hits and Fabik finished with two RBI.
NIU 6, Ohio 3
Ohio turned to Eamon Horwedel for the start in the second game, and he responded with his best effort of the season. Horwedel (0-5) threw five innings of no-hit baseball, but ran into trouble in the seventh and ultimately took the loss.
The Bobcats took a 2-0 lead after Ryan Sargent’s RBI groundout in the second and when Avery scored on a wild pitch in the sixth. But Ohio was unable to string together many of their 12 hits into big rallies.
NIU got a run on a run-scoring groundout in the sixth, then blew the game open in the seventh. Nick Byrnes relieved Horwedel with two on and one out, but a passed ball let in the tie-breaking run. With two out and two on, Ohio receiver Braxton Kelly came on and gave up a walk to load the bases.
Then NIU’s Tommy Szczasny drilled a three-run homer off Braxton as the Huskies grabbed a 6-2 lead.
NIU reliever Nate Thomas (5-2) worked the final four innings to get the win, and survived Ohio’s last-ditch effort in the ninth. Rott’s two-out single drove in a run, and Avery’s infield single then loaded the bases with two out. But Hafner grounded out to short to end it.
Ohio 6, Miami 5 (17 innings)
Ohio 000 020 000 001 000 03
Miami 020 000 000 001 000 02
Ohio — Joe Rock, Brett Manis (7), Jack Liberatore (13), Colin Sells (17), Nick Kamrada (17) and Tanner Piechnick.
Miami — Tyler Bosman, Jack Corbell (7), Cole Gnetz (13), Shane Smith (14), Bailey Martin (17) and Cal Elvers.
WP — Liberatore (8-5); SV — Kamrada (1); LP — Martin (5-3)
Northern Illinois 6, Ohio 3
Ohio 010 001 001 — 3-12-1
NIU 000 001 50x — 6-6-2
Ohio — Eamon Horwadel, Nick Byrnes (7), Braxton Kelly (7), Tony Iero (8) and Nathan Mellott.
NIU — William Anderson, Nate Thomas (6) and Jake Dunham.
WP — Thomas (4-2); LP — Horwedel (0-5)