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Ohio Baseball Visits Morehead State For Midweek Matchup

Ohio Baseball Visits Morehead State For Midweek Matchup

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By Mike Ashcraft

Ohio at Morehead State: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 | 5 p.m. ET | Allen Field | Morehead, Ky. | StatBroadcast
Probable Starting Pitchers: TBD vs. Morehead State Fr. RHP #41 Will Lozinak

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (12-10) heads to the Bluegrass State to take on Morehead State (14-11) on Tuesday (March 27) in a 5 p.m. ET midweek matchup at Allen Field.

The Bobcats will be closing out a stretch of 23-straight games played away from Athens to open the 2018 campaign.

Ohio lost two of three games at Bowling Green last weekend to open the Mid-American Conference portion of its 2018 schedule. The Bobcats suffered a 6-4 loss in the series opener on Friday (March 23) but bounced back with an 11-3 victory on Saturday (March 24). Unfortunately for Ohio, the Falcons prevailed in the Sunday (March 25) series finale, 3-1.

Sophomore catcher/outfielder Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) put together a big weekend at the plate for Ohio. Piechnick hit a team-best .500 with a team-best 1.000 slugging percentage and a team-best .538 on base percentage. He collected a team-high six hits -- including two home runs -- and drove in four runs, which ranked second on the team. He also walked once and did not strikeout in any of his 12 at-bats. Piechnick hit two home runs in Ohio's loss to Bowling Green in the series opener. He drove in three of the Bobcats' four runs and recorded the first multi-homer game of his career. He then went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI as the Bobcats toppled the Falcons on Saturday. Piechnick closed the weekend out by posting his sixth multi-hit effort of the year and third in a row, going 2-for-4 to hold the distinction of being the only player on either team to record a multi-hit performance in Ohio's loss to Bowling Green in the Sunday series finale.

Junior infielder Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) continued his hot start to the season. Rott ranked second on the team in batting average (.417), slugging percentage (.667), on-base percentage (.462) and hits (5) while leading Ohio with with three doubles and five RBIs over the three-game series at Steller Field. He saved his best effort of the weekend for Ohio's victory over the Falcons on Saturday, going 3-for-5 with a double, five RBIs and two runs scored. He drove in at least five runs in a game for the fourth time in his career. He has now tallied a team-high 12 multi-hit games this season -- including a team-high four with at least three hits.

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. Senior third baseman Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) led the way with a pair of home runs. Also going deep for the Bobcats were Piechnick, redshirt senior designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.).

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.

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 22 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.404), slugging percentage (.652), on-base percentage (.495), hits (36), doubles (10), walks (13), RBIs (18) and runs scored (19). He is also tied for the team lead with four home runs. Rott ranks tops among MAC batters in hits and doubles, second in batting average and third in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats lead the league with 44 doubles (59th in the country) and a .410 slugging percentage (78th in the country) and are tied for first with 19 home runs (57th) and 123 runs scored (139th in the country) and rank second with 211 hits (101st in the country), a .274 batting average (87th in the country) and a .364 on-base percentage (129th in the country).

Rott is one of six Ohio players with at least 20 hits for the Bobcats this year. Giannini is second on the team with 26 hits -- including six doubles, which also ranks second on the team. Redshirt senior catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfied Hills, Mich.) is third on the team with 24 hits. He also ranks second on the squad with a .312 batting average. Junior outfielder Devon Garcia (Bowling Green, Ohio) is fourth on the team with 23 hits. Sargent has posted 21 hits to rank fifth on the team and is third on the squad with 15 RBIs. Sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner (Perrysburg, Ohio) is sixth on the squad with 20 hits and is also second  on the team with seven doubles and 16 RBIs.

Ohio owns a 4.21 team earned run average, which ranks third in the MAC.

Two Bobcat pitchers own a sub-one ERA in at least eight appearances on the mound -- redshirt junior right-hander Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) and redshirt senior righty Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.), who both sport 0.00 ERAs. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 1.69 ERA in 10 relief appearances, and his 17 strikeouts lead Ohio relievers and rank as the third-most on the pitching staff.  

Redshirt senior southpaw starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) leads Ohio with 32.1 innings pitched and is second on the squad with 21 strikeouts. Senior right-handed starter Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) leads the Bobcats with 29 strikeouts. Redshirt senior right-handed starting pitcher/designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), who is 3-0 in six appearances and 28.1 innings of work on the mound (third-most on the team) is fourth on the team with 16 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 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 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 25 double plays so far in 2018, which is tops among MAC teams and ranks 12th 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 15 of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on 12.

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.

Morehead State Eagles enters Tuesday's game with a record of 14-11. Morehead State lost two of their previous three at Eastern Kentucky this past weekend in a three-game Ohio Valley Conference series. The Eagles lost 10-4 on Friday, posted a 10-2 win on Saturday and fell 4-3 on Sunday, bringing their conference mark to 5-4.

Mike McGuire is in his sixth season as the head coach of the Eagles. Morehead State finished 36-23 a season ago -- including an 18-11 mark in league play. McGuire's team was projected to finish second of 11 teams in the 2018 OVC preseason poll, receiving five first-place votes.

Senior infielder Braxton Morris is Morehead States top hitter, batting a team-best .430 with a team-best .508 on-base percentage. He also owns a .500 slugging percentage, which ranks second on the team, and has collected a team-high 43 hits -- including seven doubles to rank second on the team -- and a team-high 21 runs scored. Senior infielder/outfielder Tyler Niemann owns a team-best .570 slugging percentage, has tallied a team-high eight doubles, is tied for the team lead with junior first baseman Trevor Snyder and junior catcher Hunter Fain with three home runs and ranks third on the squad with a .329 batting average. Sndyer has driven in a team-high 20 runs.

Freshman right-hander Will Lozinak is scheduled to start on the mound for Morehead State on Tuesday. He is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in five appearances and one start, tallying six strikeouts over 11 innings of work.

Ohio makes its 2018 debut in front of its home fans this weekend (March 30-April 1) at Bob Wren Stadium as Northern Illinois comes to town for a three-game MAC set.