By Blake Moore
ADA — A three-run seventh inning and a complete game shutout from junior pitcher Nate Bye (Thorntown, Ind./Western Boone) guided the Ohio Northern baseball program to a 3-5, 3-0 split against conference foe Muskingum on Senior Day at Wander Field Sunday afternoon.
The Polar Bears move to 19-15 overall and 9-7 in the Ohio Athletic Conference this season with the split. Meanwhile, the Muskies rise to 11-22 and 5-11 in league action.
With two games remaining in conference play, Northern holds a one-game advantage over Otterbein (7-7 OAC) and Marietta (8-8 OAC) for the fourth and final league playoff spot.
Following the doubleheader, the Ohio Northern baseball program recognized seniors Caleb Thomas (Strongsville), Blake Lester (Chesepeake), Luke Klinehoffer (Zanesville/John Glenn), and Jackson Buda (Norton) for their hard work and dedication to the program over the past four seasons.
In game one, the Muskies rolled out to an early 4-0 lead after scoring one run in the second, one in the third, and two more during the fourth frame.
In the fifth, ONU cut the lead in half with two runs of their own. Sophomore infielder Michael Rocco (Orlando, Fla./Zionsville, Ind.) kicked off the scoring with an RBI single into right field before he crossed the plate on a throw down to second during a Klinehoffer steal attempt.
Klinehoffer closed the gap further in the seventh inning with a double into left field, plating Rocco to make the score 4-3.
However, MU tacked on an insurance run in the ninth and MU pitcher Evan Hinds surrendered just two hits over the final two stanzas for the first game victory.
Rocco paced the Polar Bear offense in game one with a three-for-four outing, two runs scored, and an RBI.
In the nightcap, Bye tossed a five-hit shutout on just 84 pitches for his fourth victory this season. The junior hurler put his pitching accuracy on display Sunday evening, tossing 62 strikes and issuing just one free pass.
Offensively, the Polar Bears put together a three-run seventh inning behind the hitting of sophomore Matthew Burkett (Maumee) and freshman Corey McMann (Flower Mound, Tex./Liberty Christian). The former laced a two-RBI single up the middle for a 2-0 lead before the latter slapped an RBI single into left field for the 3-0 advantage.
Junior Phil Buckingham (Wayne/Elmwood) went three-for-three in game two while Burkett and Klinehoffer recorded two hits each.
Ohio Northern will wrap up its 2019 home slate tomorrow afternoon with a single nonconference contest against Ohio Wesleyan. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. at Wander Field in Ada.