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Ohio Baseball Visits MAC Rival Kent State This Weekend

Ohio Baseball Visits MAC Rival Kent State This Weekend

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By Mike Ashcraft

Ohio at Kent State Game 1: Friday, April 20, 2018 | 4 p.m. ET | Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium | Kent, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | SIDEARM Stats

Ohio at Kent State Game 2: Saturday, April 21, 2018 | 4 p.m. ET | Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium | Kent, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | SIDEARM Stats

Ohio at Kent State Game 3: Sunday, April 22, 2018 | 1 p.m. ET | Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium | Kent, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | SIDEARM Stats

ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (17-19, 5-7 MAC) begins a stretch of seven-straight road games this weekend when it travels to Kent, Ohio, for a three-game series against Mid-American Conference rival Kent State (23-10, 9-3 MAC) at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium. The series opener is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Friday (April 20). Game two is slated for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (April 21). The Sunday (April 22) 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.

Ohio owns a 5-7 record in MAC play through the first four weeks of the league schedule, putting the Bobcats in a tie for sixth place with Ball State in the standings. 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.

The Bobcats lost two of three games in a hard-fought series against Eastern Michigan last weekend at Bob Wren Stadium. Redshirt senior left-handed starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) put together another strong outing on the mound, but Ohio suffered a tough 6-4 setback to Eastern Michigan in 10 innings on Friday (April 13) in the series opener. The Bobcats then split a Saturday (April 14) doubleheader with the Eagles. Ohio held on for a 5-4 victory in game one but suffered a tough 4-3 loss to the Eagles in the second game on the twin bill. In game one, junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored, and sophomore left fielder Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) belted a two-run home in the bottom of the third inning to help the Bobcats edge the Eagles.

The Bobcats dropped two of three games two weekends ago 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. He scored two runs. Rott singled twice, walked, drove in two runs and scored another. During the offensive onslaught by Ohio, Salisbury 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. 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 .391 with a team-best .696 slugging percentage and team-best .482 on-base percentage. He has collected a team-high 18 hits -- including three doubles, a triple and and a team-high three home runs. Rott is hitting .340 in conference games with 16 hits -- including a team-high five doubles to go along with two home runs -- and leads the squad in both RBIs (13) and runs scored (12).

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.

Ohio dropped two midweek games to longtime rival Marshall this week. The Bobcats fell to the Thundering Herd, 6-2, on Tuesday (April 17) at Kennedy Center YMCA Field, then suffered a 7-6 setback on Wednesday (April 18) at Bob Wren Stadium.

The Bobcats are 2-4 in midweek matchups so far in 2018.

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

Rott made clutch plays on both sides of the diamond last 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. 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.

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.

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 36 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.359), slugging percentage (.621), on-base percentage (.453), hits (52), doubles (12), home runs (8), walks (22), RBIs (30) and runs scored (33). He leads the MAC in hits, is tied for second in doubles, tied for third in home runs and ranks fourth in both slugging percentage and runs scored and fifth in both batting average and on-base percentage.

Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats lead the league with 339 hits (86th in the country) and 34 home runs (44th in the country) and rank second with 63 doubles (88th in the country), third with a .408 slugging percentage (92nd in the country), 198 runs scored (136th in the country) and 149 walks (119th in the country) and fifth with a .269 batting average (129th in the country).

Rott is one of seven Ohio players with at least 31 hits for the Bobcats this year. Garcia, Giannini and Piechnick are tied second on the team with 37 hits. Garcia has a team-high two triples to go along with two home runs. Giannini's eight doubles are tied with Piechnick for second on the team. Piechnick also ranks second on the team with six home runs. Sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner (Perrysburg, Ohio) and Levy are tied for fifth on the team with 33 hits. Levy is also third on the squad with five home runs. Sargent has posted 32 hits to rank sixth on the team.

Ohio owns a 4.16 team earned run average, which is second best in the MAC.

Salisbury leads Ohio with 53.1 innings pitched and ranks first with 40 strikeouts. Senior right-handed starter Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) is second on the team with 37 strikeouts and is second on the team in innings pitched (38.2). Klein, who is 3-1 in nine appearances and 32.0 innings of work on the mound (fourth-most on the team) is tied for sixth on the team with 17 strikeouts. Sophomore lefty Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio), who has made three spot starts on the mound, is 1-0 with with a 2.86 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 22.0 innings of work.

Several members of Ohio's bullpen have produced quality work for the Bobcats. Kamrada sports a 1.89 ERA over 18 appearances. Senior right-hander Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.) owns a 2.25 ERA in 11 appearances. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 3.63 ERA in 18 relief appearances. His 34.2 innings pitched leads the Bobcats' bullpen and are good for third-most on the pitching staff, and his 28 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 24, putting him two above redshirt senior right-handed reliever Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio). Blessing's 31.0 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.

Ohio called upon Roehn to close out the win in game one of last Saturday's 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. He picked up his sixth save of the season and 28th of his career.

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 35 double plays so far in 2018, which is tied for the most among MAC teams and tied for 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 22 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

Kent State enters this weekend's series against Ohio with a record of 23-10. The Golden Flashes have won seven in a row, most recently beating Pittsburgh at home on Wednesday by a score of 2-0. Kent State swept its three-game series against Northern Illinois last weekend, winning by scores of 7-2, 14-0, and 2-0. 

Jeff Duncan is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Flashes. Kent State, which finished 37-18 overall and 18-6 in MAC play a season ago, was picked to win the MAC in 2018.

Last season, the Bobcats won four of their five games against Kent State between both the regular season and the conference tournament. Ohio won the regular season series over the Golden Flashes in 2017, 2-1, at Bob Wren Stadium. The Bobcats recorded victories of 7-6 and 8-5 before falling in the series and regular season finale, 5-2. As noted above, Ohio then eliminated Kent State from the conference tournament with a pair of wins in Avon. The Bobcats last visited Kent in 2015, with Ohio taking two of three from the Flashes at Schoonover Stadium. Ohio recorded wins of 7-5 and 11-4 before dropping the series finale, 9-2.

Kent State's offense leads the MAC in runs scored (227), ranks second in batting average (.281) and hits (322), third in triples (8) and stolen bases (51) and fourth in slugging percentage (.403), home runs (24) and walks (146). Redshirt senior outfielder Mason Mamarella is Kent State's top hitter, batting a team-best .371 (second-best in the MAC) with a team-best .490 on-base percentage. He has scored a MAC-high 35 runs. Redshirt senior outfielder Nick Kanavas leads the Golden Flashes with 49 hits, which rankss second in the league behind Rott. Junior infielder Pavin Parks has posted a team-high seven doubles and has driven in a team-high 32 runs while senior catcher Brad Hamilton has belted a team-high eight home runs, which is tied for third in the conference.

Kent State owns a MAC-best 3.88 team ERA, thanks in large part to junior right-handed starting pitcher Joey Murray. Murray is 5-1 with a MAC-best 1.11 ERA over nine starts. He has given up just seven earned runs all season and has struck out a MAC-high 81 batters while walking just 18.

Ohio is scheduled to play just one midweek game next week, with a visit to Dayton on deck next Tuesday (April 24). First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. ET.