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Ohio Baseball Hosts Key MAC Series Against Eastern Michigan This Weekend

Ohio Baseball Hosts Key MAC Series Against Eastern Michigan This Weekend

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By Mike Ashcraft

Ohio vs. Eastern Michigan Game 1: Friday, April 13, 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. Eastern Michigan Sr. RHP Justin McMurtrey

Ohio vs. Eastern Michigan Game 2: Saturday, April 14, 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. Eastern Michigan Jr. RHP Jackson Shaver

Ohio vs. Eastern Michigan Game 3: Sunday, April 15, 2018 | 1 p.m. ET | Bob Wren Stadium | Athens, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | PrestoSports PrimeTime
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio TBD vs. Eastern Michigan Sr. RHP Luke DeVenney

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (16-15, 4-5 MAC) plays host to its second Mid-American Conference series of the 2018 season this weekend at Bob Wren Stadium as Eastern Michigan (11-19, 5-4 MAC) comes to town for a key league matchup. The series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Friday (April 13). Game two is slated for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (April 14). The Sunday (April 15) series finale is set to get underway at 1 p.m. ET.

Fans are invited to bring their dogs to The Wren for all three games as this weekend's series serves as Ohio Bark In The Park Weekend presented by the Athens County Visitors Bureau. The Sunday series finale will mark another 'Sunday Funday', with all fans receiving free admission courtesy of OhioHealth.

'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 enter week four of MAC play in a three-way tie for sixth place with Ball State and Bowling Green. The Eagles are in a three-way tie for third place with Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. The top six teams will qualify for the 2018 MAC Championship field.

The Bobcats split a pair of midweek contests this week, falling at in-state rival Ohio State, 4-0, on Tuesday (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 on Wednesday (April 11).

Junior infielder Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) made clutch plays on both sides of the diamond on Wednesday night, but none were bigger than his walk-off home run in the 10th inning to propel the Bobcats to a victory over the Bears. The one-out solo home run went over the left field wall, marking Rott's team-high seventh homer of the season. 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. Rott has now posted a team-high 14 multi-hit games and has tallied a team-high eight multi-RBI games. Wednesday's win also saw senior infielder/outfielder Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.) break out with 4-for-5 hitting performance with a run scored to lead Ohio's bats. His four hits marked a season-high and gave him ninth multi-hit game of the year, which is tied for third on the squad. Sophomore catcher/outfielder Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.), who ranks second on the team with 11 multi-hit performances this season, went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

Ohio is now 2-2 in midweek matchups so far this year.

Ohio owns a 4-5 record in MAC play through the first three weeks of the league schedule.

The Bobcats dropped two of three games last weekend 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 10th multi-hit game of the year and first of his career with at least four hits. Piechnick has a current team-high nine-game hitting streak going. 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 to tally his ninth multi-hit game of the season. He scored two runs. Rott singled twice, walked, drove in two runs and scored another. He posted his team-high 13th multi-hit game of the year. During the offensive onslaught by Ohio, redshirt senior southpaw starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) 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. He earned the win on the mound to improve to 4-4 on the season. Junior righty Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) tossed two scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits and a walk. Redshirt junior right-hander Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) pitched a scoreless ninth inning and alloed just one hit. 

Unfortunately, Toledo prevailed over Ohio in the final two games of the series. The Rockets put together a late rally to knock off the Bobcats, 3-2, on Saturday (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.

Piechnick is off to a hot start to league play, hitting a team-best .444 with a team-best .722 slugging percentage and team-best .487 on-base percentage. He has collected a team-high 16 hits -- including two doubles, a triple and two home runs.

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.

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, redshirt senior infielder/right-handed pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and redshirt sophomore outfielder 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 31 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.365), slugging percentage (.635), on-base percentage (.456), hits (46), doubles (11), home runs (7), walks (19), RBIs (27) and runs scored (29). He is tied for the MAC lead in hits and ranks second in slugging percentage, tied for second in doubles, third in home runs, fourth in batting average and fifth in on-base percentage.

Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats lead the league with 302 hits (83rd in the country) and 29 home runs (43rd in the country) and are tied for first with 55 doubles (96th in the country) and rank second with a .276 batting average (93rd in the country) and a .415 slugging percentage (70th in the country), third with 178 runs scored (136th in the country), fourth with 133 walks (127th in the country) and fifth with a .365 on-base percentage (128th in the country). 

Rott is one of seven Ohio players with at least 25 hits for the Bobcats this year. Garcia and Giannini are tied for second on the team with 34 hits. Garcia has a team-high two triples to go along with two home runs. Giannini's seven doubles are tied with sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner (Perrysburg, Ohio) and Piechnick for second on the team. Hafner and Piechnick are tied for fourth on the squad with 33 hits. Hafner is also tied for second on the team with Klein and Sargent with 19 RBIs. Piechnick ranks third on the team with four home runs. Levy has tallied 29 hits to rank sixth on the team. He is second on the squad with five home runs and is fifth with 18 RBIs. Sargent has posted 28 hits to rank seventh on the team.

Ohio owns a 4.09 team earned run average, which is best in the MAC. 

Salisbury leads Ohio with 45.1 innings pitched and ranks second with 36 strikeouts. Senior right-handed starter Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) leads the team with 37 strikeouts and is second on the team in innings pitched (38.2). Klein, who is 3-0 in eight appearances and 30.0 innings of work on the mound (third-most on the team) is sixth on the team with 16 strikeouts. Sophomore lefty Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio), who has made two spot starts on the mound in place of an injured Klein, is 1-0 with with a 3.12 ERA and 15 strikeouts over 17.1 innings of work.

Several members of Ohio's bullpen have produced quality work for the Bobcats. Kamrada sports a 1.59 ERA over 16 appearances. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 3.68 ERA in 15 relief appearances. His 29.1 innings pitched leads the Bobcats' bullpen, and his 24 strikeouts lead Ohio relievers and are also third-most on the pitching staff. Redshirt senior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) has struck out 19, matching him with redshirt senior right-handed reliever Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio). Blessing's 26.0 innings pitched are right behind Kutt for second among Ohio's relievers.  

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. 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 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.

Ohio has turned 31 double plays so far in 2018, which is tops among MAC teams and ranks 22nd 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 18 of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on 16.

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.

Eastern Michigan travels to Ohio this weekend with an overall record of 10-19 -- including a 5-4 conference mark. The Eagles split a pair of home midweek doubleheaders at Oestrike Stadium in Ypsilanti, Mich.,, falling to Oakland, 4-2, on Tuesday but bouncing back with a 6-1 win over Concordia. Last weekend, Eastern Michigan took two of three games from Ball State at home. The Eagles blanked the Cardinals in the series opener, 1-0, then secured the series win with a 6-5 triumph the following day. Eastern Michigan suffered a 5-0 setback to Ball State in the series finale.

Eric Roof was named the interim head coach of the Eastern Michigan baseball team for the 2018 season. He is in his fourth year with the Eagles after spending his first three as an assistant coach working with hitters. A season ago Eastern Michigan had five players drive in more than 25 runs leading to a 27-35 overall record -- including a 14-10 mark in MAC play.  

As a team, the Eagles lead the MAC in batting average (.280; 79th in the country) and rank second in the league in hits (289; 114th in the country), third in doubles (52; 119th in the country) and fourth in slugging percentage (.382; 145th in the country). Eastern Michigan is aggressive on the base paths, ranking first with 61 stolen bases, which is good for 12th in the country. On the mound, the Eagles rank seventh in the MAC in team earned run average (5.27) but second in walks allowed per nine innings (3.75).

Junior infielder Max Schuemann is Eastern Michigan's top hitter, batting a team-best .371, which leads the MAC and ranks 88th in the country, and tallying a team-best .565 slugging percentage. He leads the team in hits (46), doubles (12), runs (25), and RBIs (21) and ranks second on the team with four home runs. Schuemann is tied with Rott for the conference lead in hits and leads the MAC in doubles. His team-high 16 stolen bases are good for second in the league and 33rd in the country. Junior infielder Kolton Schenker leads the team with five home runs. Redshirt freshman outfielder Jeff Timko is batting .337 with 32 hits, which ranks second on the squad -- including seven doubles, which ranks second on the team. He also also notched 19 RBIs, which also ranks second on the team.

Eastern Michigan is scheduled to start senior right-handed pitcher Justin McMurtrey on the mound on Friday, junior righty Jackson Shaver on Saturday and senior right-hander Luke DeVenney on Sunday. DeVenney has thrown a team-high 44.2 innings, with Shaver (41.2) and McMurtrey (37.0) ranking right behind him. Shaver owns a team-high 30 strikeouts while DeVenney and McMurtrey are tied for second with 27.

Ohio and Eastern Michigan will be squaring off for the first time since May 28, 2017, when the Bobcats defeated the Eagles in the MAC Championship title game, 7-4. In the 2017 regular season, Eastern Michigan swept Ohio in a three-game series in Ypsilanti. The Eagles took the series opener, 8-2, clinched the series with a 12-9 win in game two and then swept the series with a 12-11 triumph in the third contest.

Eastern Michigan is set to visit Bob Wren Stadium for the first time since 2014, when the Bobcats took two of three from the Eagles. Ohio won the opener, 10-8, then claimed the series win with a 7-6 victory in 10 innings. Eastern Michigan closed the series out with a 10-5 win in the finale.

Ohio renews its rivalry with regional rival Marshall in a pair of midweek games next week. The Bobcats visit Huntington, W. Va., on Tuesday (April 17) for a 3 p.m. ET matchup against the Thundering Herd at Kennedy Center YMCA Field. On Wednesday (April 18), Ohio hosts Marshall in a 6 p.m. ET contest at Bob Wren Stadium.