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Ohio Baseball Returns To The Wren For Critical MAC Series Against Ball State

Ohio Baseball Returns To The Wren For Critical MAC Series Against Ball State

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By Mike Ashcraft

Ohio vs. Ball State Game 1: Friday, May 4, 2018 | 6 p.m. ET | Bob Wren Stadium | Athens, Ohio | WOUB 1340 AM Radio Broadcast | OhioBobcatTV Live Stream | PrestoSports PrimeTime
Probable Starting Pitchers: Ohio Fr. RHP Eddie Kutt vs. Ball State So. RHP John Baker

Ohio vs. Ball State Game 2: Saturday, May 5, 2018 | 3 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. Ball State Fr. RHP Drey Jameson

Ohio vs. Ball State Game 3: Sunday, May 6, 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. Ball State Fr. RHP Kyle Nicolas

ATHENS, Ohio --
 The race for a postseason conference tournament berth is heating up as the Ohio baseball team (20-23, 8-10 MAC) plays host to Ball State (23-20, 10-8 MAC) in a critical three-game Mid-American Conference series this weekend at Bob Wren Stadium. The series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Friday (May 4). Game two is slated for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (May 5). The Sunday (May 6) series finale is set to get underway at 1 p.m. ET. The series finale will mark another 'Sunday Funday', with all fans receiving free admission courtesy of OhioHealth.

Fans planning to attend Saturday's game are advised to be prepared for heavy traffic and limited parking near Bob Wren Stadium as a pair of Ohio University graduation ceremonies are slated to be held at the Convocation Center at 9 a.m. ET and 2 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.

Four Bobcats will be graduating from Ohio this weekend -- senior infielder/outfielder Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.), senior right-handed pitcher Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.), redshirt senior right-handed pitcher/infielder/outfielder Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Josh Petersen (Deshler, Ohio).

Senior outfielder Evan Bourn (Overland Park, Kan.) will graduate this summer.

The following individuals have already earned their undergraduate degrees from Ohio -- redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio), redshirt senior catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) and redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio).

The Bobcats enter week seven of MAC play in eighth place in the league 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. Toledo is also 8-10 but owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Ohio, putting the Rockets in seventh.Western Michigan (8-8) and Eastern Michigan (9-9) currently occupy the fifth and sixth spots in the standings.

Ohio dropped two of three games to archrival Miami last weekend at McKie Field at Hayden Park in Oxford, Ohio. The Bobcats overcame a two-run deficit to defeat the RedHawks, 4-3, in the series opener last Friday (April 27). Ohio earned its ninth comeback win of the 2018 season and fifth when trailing after six innings. Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) led Ohio's bats with a 2-for-4 effort that included two doubles, a walk and a run scored. Blessing gave the Bobcats four scoreless innings of relief, striking out a career-high eight while permitting just one hit. He picked up the win to improve to 3-3 on the season. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Miami took the series by bouncing back with a 6-1 win on Saturday (April 28), then recording a 4-2 victory in the Sunday (April 29) series finale. 

The Bobcats stunned rival Kent State by taking two of three on the road from the first-place Golden Flashes two weekends ago at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium. Kent State won the series opener, 5-3, on Friday (April 20), but the Bobcats erased a 3-0 lead for the Golden Flashes in the top of the seventh and ultimately earned a 5-3 triumph in 12 innings on Saturday (April 21), with Klein coming through with a two-out, two-RBI double in the top of the 12th inning. In the Sunday (April 22) rubber match, for the second game in a row, Ohio erased a deficit going into the seventh inning, plating five runs in the top of the seventh on its way to earning a 6-4 victory. The Bobcats took a series from the Golden Flashes for the third time in the last four years and came away with a series victory at Kent for the second time in the last four years. Dating back to the 2015 season, Ohio is now 8-6 against Kent State.

Ohio's series win over Kent State helped snapped a season-long four-game overall losing streak and helped the Bobcats rebound from a stretch in which they lost four of six conference games.

The Bobcats lost two of three games in a hard-fought series against Eastern Michigan three weekends ago at Bob Wren Stadium. Salisbury put together another strong outing on the mound, but Ohio suffered a tough 6-4 setback to Eastern Michigan in 10 innings on 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, Rott went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored, and Piechnick belted a two-run home in the bottom of the third inning to help the Bobcats edge the Eagles.

Ohio dropped two of three games four weeks 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 first career game with at least four hits. 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. Toledo prevailed over Ohio in the final two games of the series, however. The Rockets put together a late rally to knock off the Bobcats, 3-2, on 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.

Sophomore outfielder/catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) has been Ohio's top hitter in conference play, sporting a team-best .348 batting average and a team-best .423 on-base percentage to go along with three home runs, which is tied for the team lead. Rott ranks second on the team in league play with a .333 batting average, a team-best .597 slugging percentage, a .398 on-base percentage, 24 hits, which is tied with Piechnick for the team lead, and three home runs, which is also tied with the Piechnick for the team lead. He leads the Bobcats in MAC play with eight doubles and 17 RBIs.

Salisbury has made six starts in conference play and is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA. He has struck out a team-high 37 batters over a team-high 39.1 innings while giving up 17 earned runs and just eight walks. Blessing has been Ohio's top arm out of the bullpen in league play. He is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and has struck out 24 while allowing just five earned runs on 15 hits and nine walks over 10 appearances and 23 innings of work.

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 are now 2-5 in midweek matchups so far in 2018 after falling to in-state rival Dayton, 6-3, on April 24 at Woerner Field in Dayton, Ohio.

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

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 redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.).

The Bobcats split a pair of midweek contests two weeks ago, falling at in-state rival Ohio State, 4-0, on 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 the following day. Junior first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) made clutch plays on both sides of the diamond in the victory over Shawnee State, 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 43 games in 2018, Rott leads the Bobcats in batting average (.358), slugging percentage (.624), on-base percentage (.444), hits (62), doubles (15), home runs (9), walks (25), RBIs (36) and runs scored (38). He is tied for the MAC lead in hits and doubles, ranks third in slugging percentage, is tied for third in home runs and ranks fourth in batting average. Rott leads the Bobcats in multi-hit (19) and multi-RBI (11) games this season.

Ohio ranks as one of the MAC's top hitting teams. The Bobcats are tied for the MAC lead in with 35 home runs (tied for 80th in the country), rank third with 73 doubles (113th in the country), fourth with 175 walks (138th in the country) and fifth with a .386 slugging percentage (153rd in the country), 222 runs scored (182nd in the country) and 381 hits (155th in the country).

Rott is one of seven Ohio players with at least 33 hits for the Bobcats this year. Giannini and Piechnick are tied for second on the team with 43 hits. Piechnick also ranks second on the team behind Rott with 12 multi-hit games. He has tallied nine doubles this season, which ranks third on the team, and ranks second on the team behind Rott with six home runs. His 21 RBIs are tied for third on the squad. Giannini's 10 doubles rank second on the team. Garcia has logged 41 hits to rank fourth on the squad and is tied with Giannini for third on the team with 11 multi-hit games. Sophomore infielder Trevor Hafner has collected 37 hits to rank fifth on the team while Levy is sixth with 35 and Sargent is seventh with 33. Sargent is tied with Piechnick third on the team with 21 RBIs while Hafner is fifth with 20. Levy is also third on the squad with five home runs and sixth with 18 RBIs.

Ohio owns a 4.10 team earned run average, which is second-best in the MAC.

Salisbury leads Ohio with 66 innings pitched and ranks first with 53 strikeouts. Senior right-handed starter Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) is tied for second on the team with 37 strikeouts and is fourth on the team in innings pitched (38.2) but has not appeared on the mound since suffering an injury four weekends ago at Toledo. Klein, who is 3-1 in 11 appearances and 37.1 innings of work on the mound (fifth-most on the team), is sixth on the team with 22 strikeouts but has been limited on the mound due to suffering an injury at Bowling Green the first weekend of conference play. Sophomore lefty Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio), who has made four spot starts on the mound in place of both Klein and Baird, is 1-1 with with a 3.51 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 25.2 innings of work.

Several members of Ohio's bullpen have produced quality work for the Bobcats. Jacik owns a 2.02 ERA in 15 appearances. Redshirt junior righty Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) sports a 2.82 ERA over 21 appearances. Freshman left-hander Brett Manis (Port Huron, Mich.) has recorded a 2.89 ERA in 13 appearances. Blessing has made 23 appearances and four starts on the mound, owning a 3.02 ERA. He ranks second on the squad in innings pitched (41.2) and tied for second in strikeouts (37). Roehn, who sports a 3.17 ERA, has struck out 31 over 18 appearances and 25.2 innings of work, putting him fifth on the team in strikeouts. He has issued just eight walks. Junior right-hander Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) has a 3.58 ERA in 15 appearances and 27.2 innings of work. Freshman righty Eddie Kutt (Westlake, Calif.) owns a 3.92 ERA in 22 relief appearances. His 41.1 innings pitched ranks second among Ohio relievers and are good for third-most on the pitching staff, and his 35 strikeouts also rank second among Ohio relievers and are fourth-most on the pitching staff.

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, earning his sixth save of the season.

Roehn picked up his seventh save of the year and program-record 29th of his career in last Friday's one-run win over Miami. After forcing the RedHawks to strand two runners in the eighth, he retired the side in the ninth, ending the contest with back-to-back strikeouts

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 42 double plays so far in 2018, which is tops among MAC teams and 13th 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 28 of Ohio's twin killings and Hafner chipping in on 21.

Ohio was 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

Ball State sits in fourth place in the MAC standings entering this weekend's series against Ohio. The Cardinals have won five-straight MAC games, most recently sweeping Northern Illinois last weekend in Muncie, Ind. Ball State posted wins of 3-2 in 11 innings, 11-0 and 5-4. Overall, the Cardinals have won four in a row, with Ball State recording a 12-11 triumph over Ohio State on Wednesday (May 2).

Rich Maloney is in his second stint as the Cardinals head coach and has spent 13 years overall as the skipper in Muncie -- including each of the last six years.

Ohio swept Ball State last season in Muncie, posting a 6-4 win in the opener on April 1, 2017, then recording victories of 7-4 and 10-0, respectively, over the next two days. The Cardinals have not visited Athens since 2012, a series in which Ohio took two of three games. The Bobcats opened the series with wins of 6-1 and 11-9 before dropping the finale, 4-3.

Ball State is one of the MAC's top offensive teams, tying for the league lead in triples (11) while ranking third in hits (389) and home runs (33) and fourth in slugging percentage (.394). Redshirt senior outfielder Jeff Riedel is Ball State's top hitter, leading the squad in batting average (.363; second in the MAC), slugging percentage (.588; fifth in the MAC), on-base percentage (.449), hits (58; third in the MAC), doubles (11), triples (5; second in the MAC), home runs (5), RBIs (34) and runs scored (41; second in the MAC). The Cardinals have three others players hitting over .300 -- redshirt junior catcher/outfielder Griffin Hulecki (.329), junior catcher Chase Sebby (.327) and sophomore infielder Noah Powell (.322).

Sophomore John Baker, freshmen Drey Jameson and Kyle Nicolas make up an all-right-handed probable starting rotation for Ball State. Baker leads the Cardinals with 95 strikeouts (second in the MAC) over a team-high 75 innings on the mound. Jameson is 5-0 over 14 appearances and eight starts, with his 70 strikeouts ranking second on the team behind Baker and fourth in the MAC. Ball State's pitching staff leads the MAC and ranks 11th in the country with 10 strikeouts per nine innings while ranking second in the conference and 50th in the country with 8.09 hits allowed per nine innings.

The Cardinals are a sound defensive squad, ranking fourth in the MAC and 91st in the country with a .972 fielding percentage. Ball State's 32 double plays turned also ranks fourth in the league.

Ohio wll play its final midweek contest of the 2018 season when it hosts in-state rival Youngstown State on Wednesday (May 9) in a 6 p.m. ET matchup at Bob Wren Stadium.