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Ohio Baseball Hosts Western Michigan In Final Home Series Of 2018

Ohio Baseball Hosts Western Michigan In Final Home Series Of 2018

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By Mike Ashcraft
OhioBobcats.com

Ohio vs. Western Michigan Game 1: Friday, May 11, 2018 | 2 p.m. ET | Bob Wren Stadium | Athens, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | PrestoSports PrimeTime
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio R-Sr. LHP Gerry Salisbury vs. Western Michigan Jr. RHP Nic Laio

Ohio vs. Western Michigan Game 2: Saturday May 12, 2018 | 3 p.m. ET | Bob Wren Stadium | Athens, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | PrestoSports PrimeTime
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio R-Sr. RHP Michael Klein vs. Western Michigan Sr. RHP Jacob Piechota

Ohio vs. Western Michigan Game 3: Sunday, May 13, 2018 | 1 p.m. ET | Bob Wren Stadium | Athens, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | PrestoSports PrimeTime
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio So. LHP Derek Carr vs. Western Michigan Jr. LHP Chris Modrzynski

ATHENS, Ohio --
 The Ohio baseball team (20-27, 8-13 MAC) will be fighting to keep its league tournament berth aspirations alive when it welcomes Western Michigan (20-22, 9-10 MAC) to Bob Wren Stadium for a pivotal three-game Mid-American Conference set this weekend.

The series opener is now scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Friday (May 11). The contest was originally scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. ET but has been moved up due to rain in the forecast. Game two is slated for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (May 12). The Sunday (May 13) series finale is set to get underway at 1 p.m. ET. The series finale will mark another 'Sunday Funday', with all fans receiving free admission courtesy of OhioHealth.

Fans planning to attend Friday and Saturday's game are advised to be prepared for heavy traffic and limited parking near Bob Wren Stadium as Ohio University's medical college graduation ceremonies are slated to be held at the Convocation Center.

This weekend's series against the Broncos marks the Bobcats' final three home games of the 2018 season. Ohio will hold a Senior Day pregame ceremony on Sunday to honor the careers of left-handed pitcher Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio), right-handed pitcher Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio), outfielder Evan Bourn (Overland Park, Kan.), catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), infielder/outfielder Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.), right-handed pitcher Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.), right-handed pitcher/designated hitter/outfielder Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), right-handed pitcher Josh Petersen (Deshler, Ohio), right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) and left-handed pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio).

Max McDulin will have the call of the action on WOUB 1340 AM and online on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet. The contests will also be streamed live by OhioBobcatTV via YouTube. 

#MACtion
The Bobcats enter week eight of MAC play in eighth place in the league standings and in need of a series win to keep its hopes of qualifying for the league tournament alive. 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. 

Ohio has won two of its previous seven conference series this year.

The Bobcats stunned rival Kent State by taking two of three on the road from the first-place Golden Flashes three weekends ago 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 Klein 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 two of three games from Northern Illinois on the second weekend of MAC play 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.

Junior infielder Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) has been Ohio's top hitter in conference play, sporting a team-best .353 batting average, a team-best .647 slugging percentage and a team-best .418 on-base percentage to go along with a team-high 30 hits -- including a team-high eight doubles and five home runs -- to go along with a team-high 21 RBIs. Rott is also tied with sophomore catcher/outfielder Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) for the team lead with 18 runs scored. Piechnick ranks second on the squad in batting average (.329), slugging percentage (.573), on-base percentage (.412), hits (27), doubles (6), home runs (4) and RBIs (14).

Blessing has been outstanding out of the bullpen for Ohio in MAC play, going 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA in 12 appearances and 26 innings of work. He has struck out 28 while giving up just five earned runs on 16 hits and 10 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 went 2-6 in midweek matchups in 2018. Ohio belted four home runs -- including two by Rott -- but fell to in-state rival Youngstown State (15-31) in a 10-9 slugfest on Wednesday (May 9) at Bob Wren Stadium. Ohio's four round trippers marked the third time this year the squad has smacked at least four dingers in a game. In addition to Rott's two bombs, Giannini smacked his third home run of the season while freshman designated hitter Noah Weiner (Murrysville, Pa.) cracked his first career home run.

On April 24, Ohio fell to in-state rival Dayton, 6-3, at Woerner Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Ohio dropped two midweek games to longtime rival Marshall the previous week. The Bobcats fell to the Thundering Herd, 6-2, on April 17 at Kennedy Center YMCA Field, then suffered a 7-6 setback the following day 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 Ohio in the win over the Panthers. Giannini led the way with a pair of home runs. Also going deep for the Bobcats were Klein, Piehchnick and redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.). 

The Bobcats split a pair of midweek contests the second week of April, 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.

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 47 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.366), slugging percentage (.670), on-base percentage (.449), hits (70), doubles (15), home runs (13), walks (26), RBIs (44) and runs scored (42). He ranks second in the MAC in batting average, slugging percentage, hits and doubles and third in home runs. His 128 total bases are a conference-high and rank 14th in the nation. Rott leads the Bobcats in multi-hit (22) and multi-RBI (13) games this season.

HIT PARADE
Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats lead the conference with 42 home runs (57th in the country), rank fourth with 78 doubles (118th in the country) and fifth with a .393 slugging percentage (137th in the country) and 417 hits (147th in the country) and tied for fifth with 192 walks (tied for 127th in the country).

Rott is one of seven Ohio players with at least 33 hits for the Bobcats this year. Giannini ranks second on the team with 47 hits -- including 10 doubles, which ranks third on the squad. Piechnick is right behind Giannini with 46 hits and ranks second on the team with 11 doubles and third with 22 RBIs. Garcia has logged 42 hits to rank fourth on the squad. Sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner  and Levy have both collected 39 hits to tie for fifth on the team. Levy is also third on the team with five home runs, and he and Hafner are tied for fifth on the squad with 20 RBIs. Sargent is seventh on the team with 35 and ranks fourth with 21 RBIs.

SOLID PITCHING
Ohio owns a 4.33 team earned run average, which is third-best in the MAC.

Salisbury leads Ohio with 69 innings pitched and also ranks first with 54 strikeouts. Baird is third on the team with 40 strikeouts and is fifth with 40.1 innings pitched (38.2). Klein, who is 3-1 in 12 appearances  -- including 10 starts -- and 42 innings of work on the mound (fourth-most on the team), is sixth on the team with 25 strikeouts but has been limited on the mound due to suffering an injury at Bowling Green the first weekend of conference play. Also serving as both a designated hitter and playing the outfield, Klein ranks fourth on the team with four home runs and second with 28 RBIs. 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 3.64 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 29.2 innings of work.

Several members of Ohio's bullpen have produced quality work for the Bobcats. Jacik owns a 2.30 ERA in 17 appearances. Redshirt junior righty Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) sports a 2.59 ERA over 23 appearances. Blessing has made 25 appearances and four starts on the mound, owning a 2.82 ERA. He ranks third on the squad in innings pitched (44.2) and second in strikeouts (41) and has issued just 10 walks. Freshman left-hander Brett Manis (Port Huron, Mich.) has recorded a 3.18 ERA in 15 appearances. Junior right-hander Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) has a 3.69 ERA in 17 appearances and 31.2 innings of work. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 3.97 ERA in 24 appearances and two starts. His 45.1 innings pitched are good for third-most on the pitching staff, and his 38 strikeouts also rank as the fourth-most on the pitching staff. Roehn has struck out 31 over 21 appearances and 27 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 a Saturday (April 14) 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, earning his sixth save of the season as the Bobcats bested the Eagles, 5-4.

Roehn picked up his seventh save of the year and program-record 29th of his career in a 4-3 win over Miami on April 27 in Oxford, Ohio. After forcing the RedHawks to strand two runners in the eighth, he retired the side in the ninth, ending the contest with back-to-back strikeouts.

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 43 double plays so far in 2018, which is tops among MAC teams and 31st 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 29 of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on 22.

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 WESTERN MICHIGAN
Like Ohio, Western Michigan is currently on the outside looking in at the MAC tournament picture, sitting in seventh place with a 9-10 conference mark. The Broncos have been playing well as of late, winning four of its last five series. Western Michigan did drop two of three games to Miami in Kalamazoo, Mich., to close out the 2018 home MAC schedule for the Broncos at Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field. The Broncos lost both the series opener last Friday (10-6) and the finale on Sunday (3-1) but salvaged the weekend with a 6-1 win on Saturday. Western Michigan is coming off of a 18-13 loss to Valparaiso on Tuesday (May 8) in its 2018 regular season home finale.

Billy Gernon has served as the head coach of the Broncos for eight years.

Ohio lost two of three games to Western Michigan in 2017 in Kalamazoo. The Bobcats split a Friday (April 27) doubleheader with the Broncos, dropping the opener, 3-2, but evening the series with a 17-13 triumph in the second game of the twin bill. Western Michigan took the rubber match, though, winning by a score of 9-0. The Broncos last visited Athens in 2015, taking two of three from Ohio. Western Michigan won the series opener, 12-9, and the finale, 7-4. Ohio posted a 7-5 victory in game two of the March set at The Wren.

Western Michigan's offense is guided by three players who are hitting at least .300 -- junior infielder Connor Smith (.347; fourth in the MAC), junior infielder Jimmy Roche (.327) and junior outfielder Nate Grys (.301). Smith has collected a team-high 59 hits. Grys leads the way in slugging percentage (.603; fourth in the MAC) doubles (12), home runs (9; tied for fourth in the MAC) and RBIs (43; fourth in the MAC)

Junior right-handed pitcher Nic Laio is scheduled to start the series opener for the Broncos and has struck out a team-high 74 batters over a team-high 72.1 innings of work. Senior lefty Jacob Piechota, who is slated to get the start in game two, sports a team-best 2.78 ERA fourth-best in the MAC) and has second on the squad behind Laio in strikeouts (73) and innings pitched (68). Redshirt senior right-handed closer Jimmy Townsend-Chase is tied for second in the MAC with six saves. Redshirt senior righty Andrew Reisinger has made a conference-high 27 appearances on the mound this year, and his seven wins are good for third in the league.

UP NEXT
Ohio closes out the 2018 regular season with a trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich., next weekend (May 17-19) for a three-game MAC series against Central Michigan.

#BleedGreen