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Back At The Wren: Ohio Baseball Opens 2018 Home Schedule With MAC Series Against Northern Illinois

Back At The Wren: Ohio Baseball Opens 2018 Home Schedule With MAC Series Against Northern Illinois

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By Mike Ashcraft

Ohio vs. Northern Illinois Game 1: Friday, March 30, 2018 | 6 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. Northern Illinois Jr. RHP Tanner Foster

Ohio vs. Northern Illinois Game 2: Saturday, March 31, 2018 | 3 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. Northern Illinois Fr. RHP Michael Lasiewicz

Ohio vs. Northern Illinois Game 3: Sunday, April 1, 2018 | 1 p.m. ET | Bob Wren Stadium | Athens, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | PrestoSports PrimeTime
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio Sr. LHP Butch Baird vs. Northern Illinois TBA

ATHENS, Ohio -- College baseball returns to Athens and Bob Wren Stadium this weekend as the Ohio baseball team (12-11, 1-2 MAC) plays host to Mid-American Conference foe Northern Illinois (7-16, 1-2 MAC) in a three-game series this weekend. The series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Friday (March 30). Game two is slated for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (March 31). The Sunday (April 1) 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. The contests will also be streamed live by OhioBobcatTV via YouTube.

The Bobcats will be playing on their home field for the first time in 2018 after playing the first 23 contests of the year away from Athens.

Freshman second baseman Aaron Levy (Cincinnati, Ohio), junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) and senior right fielder Evan Bourn (Overland Park, Kan.) combined to hit four home runs, but Ohio suffered a tough 9-8 loss to host Morehead State in 10 innings on Tuesday (March 27) at Allen Field in Morehead, Ky. The Bobcats dropped to 0-2 in extra-innings games in 2018 with the loss.

Ohio lost two of three games at Bowling Green last weekend to open the MAC 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.

Rott continued his hot start to the season, ranking 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.

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 23 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.394), slugging percentage (.600), on-base percentage (.486), hits (37), doubles (10), home runs (5), walks (14), RBIs (19) and runs scored (21). He ranks tops among MAC batters in slugging percentage, hits and doubles, second in batting average and third in both on-base percentage. He has tallied a team-high 12 multi-hit games this season -- including a team-high four with at least three hits.

Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats lead the league with a .417 slugging percentage (63rd in the country), 44 doubles (68th in the country) and 23 home runs (38th in the country) and rank second with 222 hits (92nd in the country), a .273 batting average (100th in the country) and third with a .362 on-base percentage (134th in the country).

Rott is one of seven Ohio players with at least 20 hits for the Bobcats this year. Giannini is second on the team with 27 hits -- including six doubles, which ranks third 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 22 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 21 hits and is also second on the team with seven doubles and 16 RBIs. Piechick has collected 20 hits to rank seventh on the team -- including four home runs, which is good for second on the squad. His .303 batting average is good for third on the team.

The Bobcats are one of 13 teams in the country that have had at least 10 different players hit a home run this season.

Ohio owns a 4.37 team earned run average, which ranks third in the MAC. One Bobcat pitcher owns a sub-one ERA in double-digit appearances on the mound -- redshirt junior right-hander Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.), who sports a 0.00 ERA over 11 appearances. Redshirt senior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) sports a 1.38 ERA in 11 appearances, giving up just two earned runs on six hits while striking out 14 in 13 frames of work. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 2.28 ERA in 11 relief appearances. His 23.2 innings pitched leads the Bobcats' bullpen, and his 17 strikeouts leads Ohio relievers and are 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 and is second on the team with 29.0 innings pitched. 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 26 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 Levy have begun to develop a good rapport, with Levy being a part of 16 of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on 13.

Northern Illinois enters this weekend's series at Ohio with an overall record of 7-16. The Huskies have won two in a row, most recently beating in-state rival Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday by a score of 5-1. Northern Illinois dropped two of three games last weekend against Central Michigan in DeKalb, Ill., losing by scores of 8-1 and 6-0 on Friday and Saturday, respectively, before winning the final game of the series on Sunday, 9-5.

Mike Kunigonis is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Huskies. Northern Illinois finished 17-38 a season ago -- including 11-13 in MAC play. 

Senior infielder/right-handed pitcher Brad Wood is the top hitter for the Huskies, batting a team-best .298 with a team-high 13 RBIs and ranking second on the squad in both slugging percentage (.405) and on-base percentage (.413). He is tied with senior infielder Samuel Vega for the team lead with 25 hits. Vega leads Northern Illinois with a .432 slugging percentage.

Junior right-handed pitcher Tanner Foster is the ace of the Northern Illinois pitching staff and is scheduled to get the start on the mound for the Huskies on Friday. He owns a 1-2 record and a 1.99 ERA in six appearances and five starts and has thrown a team-high 31.2 innings while ranking second on team with 30 strikeouts. Freshman righty Michael Lasiewicz -- Saturday's scheduled starter for the Huskies -- leads Northern Illinois with 32 strikeouts and ranks second on the team with 30.0 innings pitched. He is 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA in six starts.

Ohio and Northern Illinois last met in 2016 in a three-game series (March 25-27) at Bob Wren Stadium, with the Huskies taking two games from the Bobcats. Northern Illinois posted a 2-0 shutout in the opener. Ohio bounced back with a 4-2 victory the following day, but the Huskies sealed the series win with a 3-1 triumph in the finale.

Ohio plays host to its first non-conference midweek home game of the 2018 campaign next Tuesday (April 3) when Shawnee State visits Bob Wren Stadium for a 6 p.m. ET matchup.