Updated Wed, Apr 3, 2013 10:35 am
The bats were working Tuesday night for the Ohio Bobcats, but as has often been the case this season the pitching just couldn’t hold up its end of the deal. Ohio (5-22) managed to score 10 runs on 18 hits but fell to Xavier (11-13) 15-10 at Bob Wren Stadium.
“You score 10 runs, you get 18 hits, you should win the game,” said Ohio head coach Rob Smith after the game. “They did a fantastic job offensively and that’s probably the most disappointing thing … but once again our deficiencies on the mound are holding us back.”
The Bobcats had no problem producing offense, jumping out to a 2-0 lead early on in the bottom of the first. Nick Squires, who finished the game 5-for-6 with three runs and an RBI, lead off with a single to shallow left field followed by a single to center from Cody Gaertner. Both runners advanced on an arid pitch by Xavier starter Vinny Nittoli, putting two runners in scoring position with Jake Madsen at the plate.
“I came in the game I wasn’t trying to go 5-for-6,” said Squires of his performance. “I was just trying to hit the ball into open spaces.”
Madsen entered the game leading the team in nine offensive categories including a team best .393 batting average with runners in scoring position. The lefty slapped a sacrifice groundout to the second baseman, driving in Squires. Gartner scored on an error by Xavier second baseman Selby Chidemo, putting the ‘Cats up 2-0 at the end of the first.
That’s when the trouble started for Ohio. After retiring the first three batters in the top of the first, starting pitcher Jake Miller, scheduled to start Friday night’s series opener against Kent State, was pulled in favor of left-hander Marck Paliotto (1-6). The switch was planned well before the game according to Smith, but it proved costly for the team.
Paliotto struggled, giving up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. In a wacky series of events that included a run being erased due to base runner interference, the lefty gave up five runs, all earned, on four hits, eventually picking up the loss on the night.
Nick Plys replaced Paliotto to start the third inning, but was unable to stop the Xavier offensive free-for-all from continuing. Struggling to stay composed, Plys gave up a hit to Xavier right fielder Joe Forney then was called for a balk the following play. With a runner on second and only one out, Plys threw a wild pitch advancing the runner to third. Forney, who finished with two runs on three hits for the night, scored on another passed ball two pitches later.
Plys induced a groundout by the next batter and forced another grounder up the middle for what should have been the final out of the inning, but Ben Otto, starting at second base Tuesday night, committed an error trying to flip the ball to shortstop Dan Schmidt. Chidemo slapped a single to centerfield scoring first baseman Seth Dawes, his first of four runs on the night. Chidemo stole second and Plys gave up a walk, loading the bases before getting pulled with two outs in the bottom of the second. He finished with 0.2 innings pitched, giving up five runs, all unearned.
Brad Przebieda took the mound in relief and coughed up a bases clearing double to Xavier shortstop Patrick Paligraf, increasing Xavier’s lead to 6-2. Przebieda finally stopped the bleeding on the next batter, though, striking out Nittoli to end the top half of the third.
Ohio was able to plate a pair of runners in the bottom half of the third, but Nittoli (1-1) pitched effectively to get out of the jam. The right hander managed four innings, giving up two runs, both unearned.
“On the mound we weren’t what we needed to be to win these kind of games,” Smith said after the loss.
After back-to-back five run innings the Musketeers loaded the bases once more to start off the fourth, but Przebieda handled the jam masterfully. He gave up a run on a sacrifice fly but was able to squeak out of the inning without any more damage. Przbieda retired the Musketeers 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth, but Ohio still trailed 11-2. Xavier starter Vinny Nittoli was replaced on the mound by right-hander Zach Johnson at the start of the bottom of the fifth and the Bobcats wasted no time striking the reliever.
Squires led off the fifth notching his third single of the game. After a fly out from Gaertner, Madsen and Tyler Wells strung together back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out. Squires scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Schmidt and Kyle Dean launched a three-run home run over the left field wall to cut Xavier’s lead to just five after five innings of play.
Przebieda was replaced after giving up two hits to start off the sixth by right-hander Ryan Ferrell. He coughed up a single and gave up a triple to Stephen Schoettmer, tacking on two more runs for the Musketeers, before he was able to get out of the inning.
The Bobcats managed to plate another run in the bottom of the sixth, bringing the game to 13-7. Brett Barber came in to relieve Feller in the top of the seventh, giving up only a walk and retiring the side unscathed.
Madsen moved over to pitch in the top of the eighth and gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning. Chidemo shot a hard hit ball at the second baseman that was fielded poorly, scoring a run and center fielder Mark Elwell shot a single to third, driving in another run. Madsen walked the next batter to load the bases, but was able to get out of the inning after forcing a pop up.
“It’s a little frustrating, obviously we had a good offensive night,” Squires said when asked if he was frustrated with the pitching issues. He dismissed the idea, adding, “There’s nights the pitchers go out and hold them to two runs, and we don’t score any runs as an offense.”
Ohio loaded the bases for Madsen with one out in the bottom of the eighth. He slapped a two-run single over the head of the second baseman, sparking the Ohio bench. Madsen finished the game with three RBIs and three hits to improve his team best batting average to .343. However, Wells and Schmidt both struck out to end the inning.
“They give effort and they go out and they try to compete,” Smith said of his team’s performance. “But again this is Division I baseball and it takes a little bit more than that sometimes to succeed.”
Logan Cozart took the mound in the ninth, marking the eighth Ohio pitcher of the night. He retired the Musketeers without giving up a run. Down six with their last shot to tie the game up, Ohio pinch hitter Scott White led off with a double, followed by a single from right fielder Brice Nikithser. John Adryan hit a sacrifice fly to right field to cut Xavier’s lead to five with one out, but the ‘Cats were unable to push anymore runs across to end the game.
The ‘Cats will try to rebound from another tough loss and prepare for a three game series against Kent State on the road this weekend.
“I’m excited that our guys are going to get a chance to see that program, I think there’s some things to be learned,” Smith said of the upcoming series. “I know we’ll match the effort, whatever level of intensity they play with, I’m confident in that. Whether or not the execution will be there that remains to be seen.”
The first game of the series is Friday at 3 p.m.