The opening game of a three-game series between the University of Akron and Ohio University produced high drama and missed opportunities for the Zips on Friday afternoon at Lee R. Jackson Field.
Bobcats (24-25, 13-9) pitcher Brent Choban (7-4) threw 153 pitches (93 for strikes) in a complete game and withstood two UA comeback attempts to enable Ohio to beat the Zips and pitcher Andrew Brown 4-3.
Despite falling behind 4-0 early in the game, the Zips (17-33, 10-12) had a chance to win until the final inning, but couldn’t produce the runs when needed.
“The inning we scored two runs we left the bases loaded on a third called strike, which you never want to do. You had a borderline pitch before that and you had another one come in,” Zips coach Rick Rembielak said.
In all, the Zips left seven men on base, but none was as costly as leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth — the inning they scored two — and appeared to be on a roll.
After Choban retired the first two batters, designated hitter Brandon Winter stroked a double to left. Center fielder Devan Ahart followed with a double that scored Winter and cut the Zips’ deficit to 4-1.
Shortstop Matt Rembielak followed with a double to left. Ahart scored and the Zips were within 4-2.
Choban walked the next two batters to load the bases for second baseman Tyler Begun, a .315 hitter. Begun worked Choban to a full count before taking a called third strike to end the inning.
Begun started to trot to first base, believing that he’d walked.
When asked about the call, Rembielak said it was a strike because that’s what the umpire called it.
“It was too close to take, let’s say that,” Rembielak said. “You can’t sit there with the bat on your shoulders with the bases loaded and put it in the hands of the umpire if it’s that close.”
That blunted any momentum the Zips had until the bottom of the ninth. Jared Turocy reached on an error by Bobcats third baseman Dan Schmidt and advanced to third when a ground ball bounced off the glove of second baseman Ian Mezlak. Turocy scored on a sacrifice fly by Ahart but Choban gathered himself and was able to get the last two batters.
Rembielak said the game was typical of the Zips’ season. The pitching was good enough to win. Brown (6-7) threw a complete game despite giving up four early runs.
“They put some good swings on [Andrew] in the first couple of innings, but he bent but didn’t break again and held everything together,” Rembielak said.
The series continues today at 1 p.m. with the Zips’ Scott Foster (3-4, 2.16) and the Bobcats’ Jason Moulton (4-3, 2.12) scheduled to pitch.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.