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Ohio Baseball Squares Off With Archrival Miami In Key MAC Road Series

Ohio Baseball Squares Off With Archrival Miami In Key MAC Road Series

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By Mike Ashcraft
OhioBobcats.com

Ohio at Miami 1: Friday, April 27, 2018 | 5 p.m. ET | McKie Field at Hayden Park | Oxford, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | Live Video ($) | Gametracker
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio TBD vs. Miami So. RHP Spencer Mraz

Ohio at Miami Game 2: Saturday, April 28, 2018 | 4 p.m. ET | McKie Field at Hayden Park | Oxford, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | Live Video ($) | Gametracker
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio R-Sr. LHP Gerry Salisbury vs. Miami Jr. LHP Zach Spears

Ohio at Miami Game 3: Sunday, April 29, 2018 | 1 p.m. ET | McKie Field at Hayden Park | Oxford, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | Live Video ($) | Gametracker
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio TBD vs. Miami Sr. RHP Gus Graham

ATHENS, Ohio --
 The Ohio baseball team (19-21, 7-8 MAC) will be looking to take a series from a team near the top of the Mid-American Conference standings for the second weekend in a row as it visits archrival Miami (23-14, 9-6 MAC) this weekend for a three-game series at McKie Field at Hayden Park. The series opener is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET on Friday (April 27). Game two is slated for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (April 28). The Sunday (April 29) series finale is set to get underway at 1 p.m. ET. 'Voice of the Bobcats' Russ Eisenstein and Max McDulin will have the call of the action on WOUB 1340 AM and online on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet. A paid live stream is available through Miami College Sports Live for all of the games this weekend. 

#MACtion
Ohio owns a 7-8 record in MAC play through the first five weeks of the league schedule, putting the Bobcats in a tie for sixth place with Ball State in the standings. The top six teams in the standings at the conclusion of the regular season will qualify for the 2018 MAC Championship will be held May 23-27 at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio.

The Bobcats stunned rival Kent State by taking two of three on the road from the first-place Golden Flashes last weekend at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium. Kent State won the series opener, 5-3, on Friday (April 20), but the Bobcats erased a 3-0 lead for the Golden Flashes in the top of the seventh and ultimately earned a 5-3 triumph in 12 innings on Saturday (April 21), with redshirt senior designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) coming through with a two-out, two-RBI double in the top of the 12th inning. In the Sunday (April 22) rubber match, for the second game in a row, Ohio erased a deficit going into the seventh inning, plating five runs in the top of the seventh on its way to earning a 6-4 victory. The Bobcats took a series from the Golden Flashes for the third time in the last four years and came away with a series victory at Kent for the second time in the last four years. Dating back to the 2015 season, Ohio is now 8-6 against Kent State.

Ohio's series win over Kent State helped snapped a season-long four-game overall losing streak and helped the Bobcats rebound from a stretch in which they lost four of six conference games.

The Bobcats lost two of three games in a hard-fought series against Eastern Michigan two weekends ago at Bob Wren Stadium. Redshirt senior left-handed starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) put together another strong outing on the mound, but Ohio suffered a tough 6-4 setback to Eastern Michigan in 10 innings on April 13 in the series opener. The Bobcats then split a Saturday (April 14) doubleheader with the Eagles. Ohio held on for a 5-4 victory in game one but suffered a tough 4-3 loss to the Eagles in the second game on the twin bill. In game one, junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored, and Piechnick belted a two-run home in the bottom of the third inning to help the Bobcats edge the Eagles.

Ohio dropped two of three games three weekends ago to Toledo at Scott Park. Junior outfielder Devon Garcia (Bowling Green, Ohio) belted a grand slam in the top of the fourth inning to help set the tone for Ohio in a 15-4 blowout win over Toledo in the MAC weekend series opener on a very windy Friday (April 6) at Scott Park. The Bobcats pounded out double-digit runs on double-digit hits for the second game in a row and seventh time in 2018. Four Ohio hitters recorded multi-hit efforts. Piechnick went 4-for-4 with a double, a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored. He recorded his first career game with at least four hits. Freshman infielder Aaron Levy (Cincinnati, Ohio) -- the reigning MAC Player of the Week -- finished 3-for-4 with a three-run home run in the sixth. He also walked twice and scored three runs. Garcia added a single to go along with his grand slam. He scored two runs. Rott singled twice, walked, drove in two runs and scored another. During the offensive onslaught by Ohio, Salisbury gave the Bobcats another strong start on the mound. The reigning MAC Pitcher of the Week worked six innings, striking out four while permitting four runs -- two of which were earned -- on eight hits and a walk. Toledo prevailed over Ohio in the final two games of the series, however. The Rockets put together a late rally to knock off the Bobcats, 3-2, on April 7, then clinched the series with an 8-1 victory in the Sunday (April 8) series finale.

Ohio improved to 3-3 in MAC play after taking two of three games from Northern Illinois the previous weekend at Bob Wren Stadium. The Bobcats and the Huskies split a Saturday (March 31) doubleheader, with Ohio taking game one by a score of 6-1 and Northern Illinois prevailing in 10 innings in game two, 6-5. Ohio rolled to a 12-4 victory over Northern Illinois in the Sunday (April 1) rubber match.

Ohio lost two of three games at Bowling Green to open the MAC portion of its 2018 schedule. The Bobcats suffered a 6-4 loss in the series opener on March 23 but bounced back with an 11-3 victory the following day. Unfortunately for Ohio, the Falcons prevailed in the Sunday (March 25) series finale, 3-1.

Sophomore outfielder/catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) has been Ohio's top hitter in conference play, sporting a team-best .397 batting average, a team-best .655 slugging percentage and a team-best .462 on-base percentage to go along with a team-high three home runs. Rott ranks second on the team in league play with a .350 batting average, a .583 slugging percentage, a .414 on-base percentage, 21 hits and two home runs. He leads the Bobcats in MAC play with six doubles and 16 RBIs.

Salisbury has made five starts in conference play and is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA. He has struck out a team-high 31 batters over a team-high 33.2 innings while giving up 14 earned runs and just eight walks.

OHIO SWEEPS MAC WEEKLY AWARDS
Salisbury was named MAC Pitcher of the Week while Levy was named MAC Player of the Week as Ohio swept the conference's weekly awards, as announced by the league office on April 2.

Both garnered MAC weekly conference honors for the first times in their careers.

Salisbury enjoyed the best outing of his Ohio career in game one of a Saturday (March 31) doubleheader against Northern Illinois, striking out a career-high 11 while giving up just one unearned run on four hits and no walks over seven strong innings to set the tone for a five-run victory for the Bobcats. He earned the victory on the mound to improve to 3-4 on the season. Salisbury became the first Ohio pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts this season.

Levy put his power on display for Ohio, smashing a team-high three home runs and slugging a team-best .889. He also drove in a team-high eight runs, tied for second on the team with seven hits and ranked third on the squad with a .438 batting average. Levy smacked two home runs and tallied three RBIs in the extra-innings loss at Morehead State. He then went 2-for-4 with two runs scored as Ohio took game one of the Saturday twin bill from the Huskies. In the Sunday (April 1) rubber match, Levy smashed a three-run home run in the fourth inning and accounted for two hits and five RBIs total as the Bobcats topped Northern Illinois.

MIDWEEK RECAP
The Bobcats are now 2-5 in midweek matchups so far in 2018 after falling to in-state rival Dayton, 6-3, on Tuesday (April 24) at Woerner Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Ohio dropped two midweek games to longtime rival Marshall last week. The Bobcats fell to the Thundering Herd, 6-2, last Tuesday (April 17) at Kennedy Center YMCA Field, then suffered a 7-6 setback on Wednesday (April 18) at Bob Wren Stadium.

Ohio belted a season-high five home runs en route to an 11-7 victory over host High Point on March 14 at Williard Stadium in High Point, N.C., in the Bobcats' first midweek game of the year. Four players went yard for the Bobcats in the win over the Panthers. Senior third baseman Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) led the way with a pair of home runs. Also going deep for the Bobcats were Piechnick, Klein and redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.).

The Bobcats split a pair of midweek contests two weeks ago, falling at in-state rival Ohio State, 4-0, on April 10) at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus, but bouncing back with a 6-5 win in 10 innings over Shawnee State at The Wren the following day. Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) made clutch plays on both sides of the diamond in the victory over Shawnee State, but none were bigger than his walk-off home run in the 10th inning to propel the Bobcats to a victory over the Bears. He finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle, going 3-for-6 with a single, a triple, a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored.

OHIO SWEEPS MAC WEEKLY AWARDS
Salisbury was named MAC Pitcher of the Week while Levy was named MAC Player of the Week as Ohio swept the conference's weekly awards, as announced by the league office on April 2.

Both garnered MAC weekly conference honors for the first times in their careers.

Salisbury enjoyed the best outing of his Ohio career in game one of a Saturday (March 31) doubleheader against Northern Illinois, striking out a career-high 11 while giving up just one unearned run on four hits and no walks over seven strong innings to set the tone for a five-run victory for the Bobcats. He earned the victory on the mound to improve to 3-4 on the season. Salisbury became the first Ohio pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts this season.

Levy put his power on display for Ohio, smashing a team-high three home runs and slugging a team-best .889. He also drove in a team-high eight runs, tied for second on the team with seven hits and ranked third on the squad with a .438 batting average. Levy smacked two home runs and tallied three RBIs in the extra-innings loss at Morehead State. He then went 2-for-4 with two runs scored as Ohio took game one of the Saturday twin bill from the Huskies. In the Sunday (April 1) rubber match, Levy smashed a three-run home run in the fourth inning and accounted for two hits and five RBIs total as the Bobcats topped Northern Illinois.

PRE-CONFERENCE REWIND
The Bobcats entered league play having won seven of their previous 10 games.

Ohio opened the 2018 season by splitting a four-game series against Rider in Lexington, S.C.

The Bobcats fell to the Broncs, 6-4, in the season opener on Feb. 16, but bounced back by sweeping a Saturday (Feb. 17) doubleheader by scores of 10-2 and 6-5. Ohio dropped the series finale, though, as Rider walked off in the 11th inning, 6-5, on Feb. 18.

Ohio then split a four-game weekend set with Maine at Perfect Game's LakePoint facility. Maine won the Friday (Feb. 23) series opener, 5-1. Ohio split the Saturday (Feb. 26) doubleheader with the Black Bears, taking game one by a score of 7-5 but falling the second game of the twin bill. The Bobcats closed out the weekend with a 6-2 win in the Sunday (Feb. 27) series finale. 

Ohio and Nebraska Omaha each won two games in a four-game weekend series played at Perfect Game's LakePoint facility in Cartersville, Ga. The Bobcats bounced back from a tough 6-5 loss to to the Mavericks in the series opener on March 2 by using solid pitching and timely hitting to sweep a Saturday (March 3) doubleheader by scores of 4-1 and 5-2. Ohio was blanked by Nebraska Omaha in the series finale, though, 4-0, on March 4.

The Bobcats earned both their first series victory and first series sweep of the 2018 season as Ohio took all three games from host Towson at Schuerholz Park in Towson, Md. Ohio took the series opener from the Tigers on March 9, 5-2, then hung on for a 10-9 win that clinched the series the next day. The Bobcats then roared back from a 7-0 deficit to top Towson, 9-8, in the Sunday (March 11) series finale.

Ohio belted a season-high five home runs en route to an 11-7 victory over host High Point on March 14 at Williard Stadium in High Point, N.C., in the Bobcats' first midweek game of the year. Four players went yard for the Bobcats in the win over the Panthers. Giannini led the way with a pair of home runs. Also going deep for the Bobcats were Piechnick, Klein and Sargent.

The Bobcats then dropped two of three games to host USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. Ohio lost the series opener, 8-1, on March 16 and suffered a 12-7 loss the following day. The Bobcats salvaged the weekend series by rallying to beat the Spartans, 10-5, in the Sunday (March 18) series finale.

RU-DY, RU-DY
Rott put together a monster weekend to help Ohio sweep Towson. Rott hit a team-best .727 with both a team-best 1.273 slugging percentage and a team-best .813 on-base percentage, collected a team-high eight hits -- including a team-high two home runs -- to go along with a team-high five walks and a team-high four RBIs. He also tied for second on the team with three runs scored. Rott finished 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored in the 5-2 win in the series opener. He then finished 2-for-4 with a home run and drew a pair of walks as the Bobcats hung on to beat Towson on Saturday. Rott closed out the weekend with another big performance, going 3-for-3 with his team-leading fourth home run of the season in the Sunday series finale. He also drew two walks. His two-out, three-run blast highlighted a five-run top of the sixth inning that put Ohio in position to pull off the come-from-behind triumph.

Through 40 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.366), slugging percentage (.621), on-base percentage (.453), hits (59), doubles (13), home runs (8), walks (24), RBIs (35) and runs scored (36). He leads the MAC in hits, ranks second in batting average and doubles, is tied for second in runs scored, ranks third in slugging percentage, is tied for third in home runs and ranks fifth in both on-base percentage. Rott leads the Bobcats in both multi-hit (18) and multi-RBI (11) games this season. He has hit safely in each of the last five games and has reached base safely in 10-straight games.

HIT PARADE
Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats lead the league with 365 hits (112th in the country) and are tied for the conference lead with 34 home runs (tied for 64th in the country) and rank second with 69 doubles (95th in the country), fourth with a .394 slugging percentage (128th in the country), 215 runs scored (152nd in the country) and 164 walks (121st in the country) and fifth with a .261 batting average (173rd in the country).

Rott is one of seven Ohio players with at least 33 hits for the Bobcats this year. Piechnick is second on the team with 42 hits. He also ranks second on the team behind Rott with 12 multi-hit games and has reached base safely in each of the last 10 games to tie for the second-longest current streak on the team with Rott. Piechnick has tallied nine doubles this season, which is tied for second on the team, and ranks second on the team behind Rott with six home runs. His 19 RBIs are good for fifth on the squad. Giannini is third on the squad with 40 hits -- including nine doubles, which matches Piechnick for second on the team. Garcia has logged 39 hits and is tied with Giannini for third on the team with 10 multi-hit games. Sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner has collected 36 hits to rank fifth on the team while Levy is sixth with 34 and Sargent is seventh with 33. Sargent is third on the team with 21 RBIs while Hafner is fourth with 20. Levy is also third on the squad with five home runs and sixth with 18 RBIs.

SOLID PITCHING
Ohio owns a 4.11 team earned run average, which is second-best in the MAC.

Salisbury leads Ohio with 60.1 innings pitched and ranks first with 47 strikeouts. Senior right-handed starter Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) is second on the team with 37 strikeouts and is second on the team in innings pitched (38.2) but has not appeared on the mound since suffering an injury three weekends ago at Toledo. Klein, who is 3-1 in 10 appearances and 33.0 innings of work on the mound (fifth-most on the team) is tied for seventh on the team with 17 strikeouts but has been limited on the mound due to suffering an injury at Bowling Green the first weekend of conference play. Sophomore lefty Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio), who has made four spot starts on the mound in place of both Klein and Baird, is 1-1 with with a 3.51 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 25.2 innings of work.

Several members of Ohio's bullpen have produced quality work for the Bobcats. Senior right-hander Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.) owns a 2.53 ERA in 14 appearances. Redshirt junior righty Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) sports a 1.86 ERA over 19 appearances. Freshman left-hander Brett Manis (Port Huron, Mich.) has recorded a 2.89 ERA in 13 appearances while junior right-hander Kenny Ogg(Indianapolis, Ind.) has a 3.00 ERA in 14 appearances and 27 innings of work. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 3.32 ERA in 20 relief appearances. His 38 innings pitched leads the Bobcats' bullpen and are good for third-most on the pitching staff, and his 33 strikeouts lead Ohio relievers and are also third-most on the pitching staff. Redshirt senior right-handed reliever Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) has made 21 appearances and four starts on the mound. He ranks fourth on the squad in both innings pitched (35.2) and strikeouts (28). Redshirt senior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) has struck out 26 over 18 appearances and 23 innings of work, putting him fifth on the team in strikeouts.

Under the direction of sixth-year head coach Rob Smith, who also serves as the Bobcats' pitching coach, Ohio established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats owned a 4.42 team ERA, which ranked second-best in the league. Ohio also ranked second in walks allowed per nine innings (4.12), third in strikeouts per nine innings (8.2) and fourth in hits allowed per nine innings (9.12). The Bobcats' pitching staff logged a program-record 483 strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 420 set in 2003. Ohio's pitching staff recorded five shutout victories in 2017 after posting just one in 52 games in '16.

ROEHN BREAKS OHIO'S CAREER SAVES RECORD
Roehn closed out Ohio's 6-5 win in the second game of the Feb. 17 doubleheader against Rider, earning his 23rd career save to break the program record, which was previously held by Chad Reed (22; 1989-92). Roehn threw the final 1.2 frames, striking out five while allowing just one hit.

Roehn earned his second save of the year in Ohio's 7-5 victory over Maine in game one of the Saturday doubleheader. Roehn picked up his third save of the season in Ohio's 4-1 win over Nebraska Omaha in game one of the Saturday doubleheader. He entered in the bottom of the ninth and retired to the side to seal the victory, tallying his program-record 25th save of his career. Roehn earned two saves at Towson, bringing his career total to 27 after closing out the Bobcats' Friday and Saturday victories over the Tigers.

Ohio called upon Roehn to close out the win in game one of last Saturday's doubleheader against Eastern Michigan. Roehn, who had endured a rough stretch in which he did not produce a save in six opportunities, dug deep and delivered for his team. He picked up his MAC-high sixth save of the season and 28th of his career.

Roehn was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's 2018 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List and was also named a 2018 Collegiate Baseball Preseason Third Team All-American. He tallied a program-record 15 saves in 2017 to earn First Team All-MAC honors.

TURNING TWO
Ohio has turned 40 double plays so far in 2018, which is tops among MAC teams and 12th in the country. The Bobcats' two new middle infielders -- Hafner, a transfer from Sinclair Community College, and Levy have begun to develop a good rapport, with Levy being a part of 26 of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on 20.

BOBCATS PICKED TO FINISH FOURTH IN MAC
Ohio was picked to finish fourth in the 2018 MAC Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Feb. 15. The preseason poll was voted on by the league's 10 head coaches.

The Bobcats garnered 70 points overall. Kent State was tabbed as the top team in the MAC with eight first-place votes. The Golden Flashes totaled 98 points overall. Central Michigan was picked to finish second, tallying 86 points. Ball State was selected to finish third with 73 points. Rounding out the poll were Miami (49 points; one first-place vote), Western Michigan (47 points), Eastern Michigan (40 points), Toledo (36 points), Northern Illinois (35 points; one first-place vote) and Bowling Green (10 points).

The Bobcats are coming off of a 2017 campaign in which they finished with 31 wins -- including 11 in MAC play, which placed Ohio fifth in the overall league standings. Under the direction of Smith, No. 5-seeded Ohio capped an improbable league postseason run by defeating No. 3-seeded Eastern Michigan, 7-4, to clinch the 2017 MAC Championship title on May 28 at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio. Ohio earned its third MAC tournament title (1997, 2015, '17) with the victory. The Bobcats opened 2017 MAC Championship play by beating No. 4-seeded Ball State, 4-3, on May 24. Ohio then advanced to the winner's bracket final thanks to a late-night 5-3 win over No. 1-seeded Kent State the following day. The Bobcats eliminated the Golden Flashes with a 7-2 victory on May 27, marking the fourth time in five tries Ohio emerged victorious over MAC regular season champion Kent State in 2017. After missing the national postseason tournament 17 years in a row, Ohio punched its second NCAA Regional ticket in the last three years as the MAC's automatic bid with the victory over Eastern Michigan, advancing to the 2017 NCAA Championship Lexington Regional. The No. 4 regionally-seeded Bobcats fell to No. 1 regionally-seeded Kentucky, 6-4, on June 4, then dropped an 11-2 decision to No. 2 regionally-seeded Indiana the following day.

Smith has led Ohio to two MAC tournament titles and two NCAA Championship appearances over the the last three years. Ohio had made just two NCAA tournament appearance in the 43 seasons prior to the 2015 campaign

SCOUTING MIAMI
Miami sits in second place in the MAC standings entering this weekend's series against Ohio. The RedHawks dropped two of three games to host Northern Illinois last weekend in DeKalb, Ill., losing the first two games of the series by scores of 5-2 and 2-1 before preventing a sweep with a 5-1 win in the Sunday series finale. Miami is coming off of a 4-3 loss in 11 innings at Butler on Wednesday (April 25) in Indianapolis.

Danny Hayden is in his fourth season as the head coach of the RedHawks. Miami finished 22-34 overall last year -- including an 8-16 mark in MAC play.

Ohio came away with a 2-1 series win over Miami last year at Bob Wren Stadium. The Bobcats took the series opener, 9-5, on April 21, 2017. The RedHawks responded with a 3-1 win the following day, but Ohio took the Sunday rubber match by a score of 3-2. The Bobcats last visited Oxford in 2015, with Ohio taking two of three from Miami. Ohio won the opener, 9-6, dropped game two, 7-6, and earned a 17-5 victory in the regular season finale.

Junior catcher Hayden Senger is batting a team-best .345 with a team-high 14 doubles while ranking second in slugging perentage (.526), on-base percentage (.437), hits (40) and RBIs (25). Redshirt senior infielder Ross Haffey is one of MAC's most dangerous hitters, leading Miami with a MAC-best .696 slugging percentage, a .474 on-base percentage, 47 hits, a MAC-high 11 home runs, 32 RBIs and 36 runs scored (tied for second in the MAC). Senger and Haffey are two of five RedHawks who are hitting .300 or better (minimum of 27 games played).

Miami's probable Friday and Saturday starting pitchers -- sophomore right-hander Spencer Mraz and junior southpaw Zach Spears -- are the top arms for the Miami. Mraz owns is 4-1 with a 2.54 ERA with 40 strikeouts over nine starts and 46.0 innings pitched. Spears is 2-3 with a 3.68 ERA and has compiled team-high 68 strikeouts (third in the MAC) over a team-high 58.2 innings of work in ten starts.

UP NEXT
Following Sunday's series finale against Miami, Ohio will have four days off for finals week before playing host to Ball State in a three-game MAC series next weekend (May 4-6) at Bob Wren Stadium. The Bobcats will be beginning a stretch of seven-straight games play at The Wren to close out the home portion of the 2018 schedule.

#BleedGreen