Updated Mon, Apr 28, 2014 9:49 am
The sixth inning has often been the start of trouble for the Ohio pitching staff throughout the 2014 season.
The Bobcat pitchers have allowed 42 runs in the sixth inning this season, which is the second highest total of runs allowed in any inning this season. Meanwhile, their offense has had its share of troubles in the inning as well, mustering only eight runs in the sixth, their lowest run total of any inning this year.
On Sunday afternoon, it was more of the same for the Bobcats, as Eastern Michigan scored five times in that troublesome sixth inning, all with two outs, to propel themselves to the 10-5 victory at Bob Wren Stadium to avoid being swept by the ‘Cats in the series finale.
Sitting in a 2-1 deficit in the sixth inning, Ohio (8-32, 4-14 Mid-American Conference) starting pitcher Connor Sitz looked in control on the mound. He induced two quick outs and appeared to have the ‘Cats rolling into the bottom of the inning. But then, the wheels fell off.
After walking his next two batters, Sitz was pulled in favor of the lefty Gerry Salisbury, but it didn’t get any better from there. Salisbury allowed three consecutive RBI singles on only five pitches to vault the Eagles into a 5-1 lead.
Salisbury was then pulled in favor of another lefty in Sean Kennedy, who hit the Eagles (15-26, 3-15 MAC) Lee Longo on the third pitch of the at-bat to load the bases. Then, Eagles catcher Adam Sonabend took advantage of 3-1 count and smacked a two-RBI double down the left field line, to push the lead to 7-1 over the ‘Cats.
When all was said and done, seven-straight batters reached base safely after getting the first two outs, via walks, hits, and a hit-by-pitch.
“The two walks with two outs and nobody on really hurt us,” Ohio head coach Rob Smith said after the game. “We’ve dodged a few bullets in the last few games of not throwing strikes, but today it just caught up with us.”
While the pitching struggled, the Bobcats’ bats also came alive in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Outfielders Jake Madsen and Tyler Wells started with back-to-back hits to open it up, and then a sacrifice fly from John Adryan scored Madsen to make it a 7-2 game.
Next batter Taylor Emody squeezed a single into left field to score Wells from second and cut the lead to 7-4. After back-to-back singles by Ty Black and Nick Bredeson loaded the bases for Ohio, Connor Callery reached safely on a fielder’s choice, which scored Emody to cut the deficit to 7-5.
However, Ohio’s rally would be short-lived, as the Eagles scored three more times in the eighth and ninth innings to leave the Wren with the victory.
The Eagles offense fed on the Bobcats pitching staff all game long, knocking in their 10 runs on 13 hits, including hitting 7 for 15 (.466) with runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, Ohio finished the game with 11 hits of their own, but hit just 3 for 10 (.300) with runners in scoring position, including stranding the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings.
But, the biggest thorn in Ohio’s side was the lack of control on the mound. All in all, the Bobcats allowed 11 Eagles to reach base via walks or hit by pitch.
“When you walk a total of eight [batters], you’re just not going to win many games,” Smith said. “Unfortunately we put ourselves in position to not only lose the game, but from a pitching stand point it just wasn’t a good enough effort of throwing strikes.”