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Ohio Baseball To Play At High Point On Wednesday

Ohio Baseball To Play At High Point On Wednesday

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By Mike Ashcraft

Ohio at High Point: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 | 2 p.m. ET | Williard Stadium | High Point, N.C. | Live Stats
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio R-Sr. RHP Cory Blessing vs. High Point R-Fr. RHP Kirby Osborn

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (9-6) will now take on High Point (8-7) on Wednesday (March 14) in a 2 p.m. ET matchup at Williard Stadium in North Carolina. The Bobcats and the Panthers were originally scheduled to play on Tuesday (March 13) at 4 p.m. ET but the contest was called off due to inclement weather in the Carolinas and poor field conditions.

The Bobcats have won five of their last six games and are coming off of 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., last weekend. Ohio took the series opener from the Tigers last Friday (March 9), 5-2, then hung on for a 10-9 win that clinched the series on Saturday (March 10). The Bobcats then roared back from a 7-0 deficit to top Towson, 9-8, in the Sunday (March 11) series finale.

Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) 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. Rott has now posted a team-high eight multi-hit efforts this season. Through 15 games in 2018, he leads the Bobcats in batting average (.383), slugging percentage (.650), on-base percentage (.493), hits (23), home runs (4), walks (11) and runs scored (12).

Ohio and Nebraska Omaha each won two games in a four-game weekend series played at Perfect Game's LakePoint facility in Cartersville, Ga., two weekends ago. 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 doubleheader sweep of the Mavericks saw redshirt senior left-handed starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) and senior right-handed starter Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) each earn their first victories on the mound of the 2018 campaign. In game one, Salisbury fanned four over eight innings while giving up just one earned run on four hits and a walk. He rendered Nebraska Omaha scoreless over the first six innings, allowing just one hit while the Mavericks managed to put just three men on base. In game two, Baird struck out four while giving up two earned runs on four hits and four walks over six innings.

Several youngsters contributed Ohio's success last Saturday as well. Sophomore catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) led Ohio at the plate in game one with a double, a single and an RBI. Hafner added a pair of singles, drove in a run and scored another. Game two saw redshirt freshman catcher Dan McCauley (Pittsburgh, Pa.) deliver his first career home run -- a three-run shot to left that made it a 5-2 lead for the Bobcats. Freshman right-hander Chace Harris (New Marshfield, Ohio) entered in the eighth and earned his first career save by retiring the side in his first inning of work and then working around a single and a walk in the ninth to shut the door on Nebraska Omaha.

The Bobcats split a four-game weekend set with Maine three weeks ago 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 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 enters week 5 of the 2018 season ranking as one of the Mid-American Conference's top hitting teams. The Bobcats rank second with 144 hits (78th in the country) and 28 doubles (75th in the country), third with a .273 batting average and 61 walks, fourth with a .391 slugging percentage and tied for fifth with 10 home runs.

Rott is one of five Ohio players with at least 15 hits for the Bobcats this year. Junior outfielder Devon Garcia (Bowling Green, Ohio) and senior outfielder/infidler Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) are tied for second on the squad with 17 hits apiece, with Giannini also ranking second on the team with five doubles. Sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner (Perrysburg, Ohio) is fourth on the squad with 16 hits -- including a team-high six doubles. He has also collected a team-high 12 RBIs. Redshirt senior catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) is fifth on the team with 15 hits. He also ranks second on the squad with a .306 batting average.

Through fourth weeks of the 2018 season, Ohio owns a 3.45 team earned run average, which ranks 65th in the country. 

Two Bobcat pitchers own a sub-one ERA in at least seven appearances on the mound -- redshirt junior right-hander Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) and redshirt senior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.), who both sport 0.00 ERAs. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 1.13 ERA in seven relief appearances, and his 12 strikeouts leads Ohio relievers and are tied for second-most on the pitching staff. 

Salisbury leads Ohio with 21.1 innings pitched. Baird leads the Bobcats with 16 strikeouts. Redshirt senior right-handed starting pitcher/designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), who is 3-0 in four appearances and 20.2 innings of work on the mound (second-most on the team) is tied with Salisbury and Kutt for second on the team with 12 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 Broobcats' 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 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 two weekends ago. 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 last weekend at Towson, bringing his career total to 27 after closing out the Bobcats' Friday and Saturday victories over the Tigers.

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

Ohio has turned 14 double plays so far in 2018, which is tied for second among MAC teams and tied for 47th in the country. The Bobcats' two new middle infielders -- Hafner, a transfer from Sinclair Community College, and freshman Aaron Levy (Cincinnati, Ohio) have begun to develop a good rapport, with Levy being a part of nine of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on five.

Ohio has been 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.

High Point is 8-7 entering Wednesday's game. The Panthers won the Environmental Staffing Chanticleer Classic in Conway, S.C., last weekend. After dropping an 8-6 decision to Ohio State last Friday, the Panthers topped then-No. 21-ranked Coastal Carolina, 8-5, later on Friday, beat the Buckeyes, 8-4, on Saturday, then edged the host Chanticleers, 3-2, in the Sunday finale.

The Panthers are led by 10th-year head coach Craig Cozart. High Point was picked to finish third in the 2018 Big South Preseason Poll behind Winthrop and Liberty.

Entering the fifth week of the 2018 season, the Panthers rank third among Big South teams with a .264 batting average 138 hits. High Point has also stolen 22 bases this year, which is tops among Big South squads and 39th in the country. The High Point pitching staff has given up just 7.7 hits per nine innings, which is best among Big South teams, and ranks second among conference teams in both earned run average (4.18) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.2).

Senior infielder Hunter Lee leads the Panthers with 18 hits and is tied for the team lead in doubles with senior outfielder Carson Jackson with five and is also tied for the team lead in RBIs with redshirt junior catcher Daniel Millwee. Millwee owns a team-best .347 batting average, a team-best .592 slugging percentage and a team-best .448 on-base percentage and has hit a team-high two home runs.

Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Kirby Osborn is set to make his second start on the mound for High Point on Wednesday.

Ohio is scheduled to play a three-game series at USC Upstate this weekend in Spartanburg, S.C. The series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Friday (March 16). Game two is slated for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday (March 17). The Sunday (March 17) series finale is set for get underway at 1 p.m. ET.