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CLEVELAND -- The Ohio baseball team has been picked to finish fourth in the 2018 Mid-American Conference Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Thursday (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 head coach Rob 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.
Among the returners from last year's championship team are a pair of 2017 First Team All-MAC selections in redshirt senior infielder/right-handed pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) and a MAC All-Defensive Team selection in junior infielder Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.).
For the second year in a row, Ohio begins the year in Lexington, S.C., to take on Rider this weekend (Feb. 16-18) in a four-game neutral site series to start the 2018 campaign.
The Bobcats are scheduled to open conference play with a three-game series at Bowling Green (March 23-25).
The 2018 MAC Championship will be held May 23-27 at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio. The winner receives the league's automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Championship.
NCAA Championship Regionals are scheduled for June 1-4 with Super Regionals being held June 8-11. The 2018 NCAA College World Series is slated to run June 16-27 from TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Neb.