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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team begins the 2017 season with four neutral-site games in Lexington, S.C., playing two games against La Salle and two against Butler at Lexington County Baseball Stadium.
The Bobcats are set to open the season on Friday (Feb. 17) with a 5 p.m. ET matchup against La Salle. Ohio will take on the Explorers again on Saturday (Feb. 18) at 11 a.m. ET before taking on Butler at 3 p.m. ET. The Bobcats will close out the weekend on Sunday (Feb. 19) with a 1 p.m. ET matchup against the Bulldogs.
There will be no live scoring or streaming/radio broadcasts of this weekend's games.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. La Salle Gr. RHP #16 Jared Mattera
Saturday Game 1: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. La Salle So. RHP #28 CJ Pruitt
Saturday Game 2: Ohio Jr. RHP #6 Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.) vs. Butler Fr. RHP #13 Ryan Pepiot
Sunday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Butler Jr. RHP #22 Garrett Christman
Head coach Rob Smith enters his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 84 games in his four seasons at Ohio and led the Bobcats to a Mid-American Conference tournament title and an NCAA Championship berth in 2015.
OHIO PICKED THIRD IN MAC EAST
Ohio has been picked to finish third in the East Division according to the 2017 MAC Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Thursday (Feb. 16). The preseason poll was voted on by the league's 11 head coaches.
The Bobcats garnered 44 points overall. Kent State was tabbed as the top team in the MAC East Division with nine first-place votes. The Golden Flashes totaled 61 points overall. Miami was picked to finish second in the East Division, tallying 56 points and receiving one first-place vote. Bowling Green (32 points; one first-place vote) and Buffalo (27 points) rounded out the MAC East predicted order of finish.
Ball State totaled 57 points overall and five first-place votes to earn the distinction of being the predicted winner of the MAC West Division. Central Michigan (49 points; two first-place votes), Toledo (36 points; one first-place vote), Northern Illinois (32 points; two first-place votes), Western Michigan (31 points; one first-place vote) and Eastern Michigan (26 points) were picked to finish behind the Cardinals.
The Golden Flashes garnered four votes to win the 2016 MAC tournament title while Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan all received a vote to win the league's tournament crown.
ROEHN SHINES IN RETURN
Redshirt junior right-hander Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) sported a team-best 2.18 ERA and led the Bobcats with seven saves in 2016 after missing the 2015 campaign due to an injury. He fanned 43 over 23 appearances and 45.1 innings of work while surrendering just 11 earned runs on 42 hits and nine walks. His seven saves in 2016 tie him with Doug Stackhouse (1983) for the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
Roehn was named to the 2017 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday (Feb. 13).
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Roehn isn't the only weapon in Ohio's pitching arsenal heading into the 2017 campaign.
Senior right-handed pitcher Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) finished last season with a record of 5-3 and totaled a team-high 76 strikeouts in a team-high 14 starts.
Senior right-handed pitcher Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) is coming off a 2016 season in which he logged 39 strikeouts over a team-high 24 appearances out of the bullpen.
Redshirt junior right-hander Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) ranked fourth on the team in both appearances (19) and innings pitched (54.1) last year and finished with 38 strikeouts.
Redshirt junior southpaw Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) enters 2017 as the ace of Ohio's staff. He compiled 40 strikeouts over 17 appearances in 2016 -- including five starts.
A new face to Ohio's pitching staff in 2017 is junior lefty Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio), a transfer from Louisville and Wabash Valley. Baird went 11-3 over 15 appearances in 2016 for Wabash Valley -- including a team-high five starts -- and 73.2 innings pitching, tallying a team-high 136 strikeouts and posting a 2.08 ERA . He made 14 relief appearances in first collegiate season at Louisville in 2015, finishing with a 1-0 record and a 3.52 ERA over 7.2 innings pitched
RU-DY, RU-DY, RU-DY
Sophomore Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) returns after a stellar freshmen season. Rott was one of just four Bobcat position players to play in all 52 of Ohioâs games during the 2016 season, starting 51 of them.
Rott excelled at the plate for the Bobcats, ranking second on the team in RBIs (39), on-base percentage (.406) and doubles (13) and third in batting average (.319) and home runs (3). He tied for the team lead with 14 multi-RBI games -- including a team-high four outings with at least three RBIs. He also tied for second with 12 multi-hit games
Rott complemented his offensive prowess with quality defense. In 484 defensive chances, he committed just three errors, accumulating a fielding percentage of .940, which tied for the best on the team among players with more than 50 chances. Rott also helped the Bobcats turn two more than any other player on the squad, contributing on 39 double plays.
Rott was named to the 2016 Louisville Slugger All-Freshman Team for his efforts.
STRONG MIDDLE INFIELD
Ohio's senior middle infield combo of second baseman Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) and shortstop Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) is back for the second year in a row.
Black led the team with 150 assists while Finkler ranked second with 116. Black ranked second on the squad by fielding 30 double plays while Finkler fielded 23 to rank third on the team.
At the plate, Black hit .261 with 53 hits -- including five doubles and a home run -- to go along with 21 RBIs and 30 runs scored. Finkler batted .244 with 32 hits -- including seven doubles, a triple and a home run -- to go along with 13 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
SCOUTING LA SALLE
La Salle finished last season with a 15-39 record. The Explorers look to replace one of their biggest threats last season in infielder Joey Ravert. Ravert led La Salle at the plate with a team leading 31 RBIs and six home runs.
The Explorers also look to replace an innings eater in right-handed pitcher Jordan Meyer. Meyer pitched a team-leading 71.1 innings in 14 appearances -- including 11 starts. He tossed three complete games to lead the team and pitched La Salleâs lone shutout.
La Salle returns graduate left-handed pitcher Luke Reilly, who had a 3.49 ERA to lead Explorer starters in 2016.
The Explorers are led by 10th-year head coach Mike Lake.
Like La Salle, Butler is coming off a 2016 season that saw them finish below the .500 mark, accumulating a 14-40 record last season. The Bulldogs return their top-two leaders in batting average in senior middle infielder Michael Hartnagel, who led the team with a .319 average, and junior outfielder Tyler Houston, who batted .308 while leading Butler with 28 RBIs.
The Bulldogs return senior left-handed pitcher Jeff Schank, who led Butler starters with a 3.16 ERA and was second on the team with 91 innings pitched last season
Head coach Dave Schrage is in his first season at Butler after spending the last five seasons at South Dakota State.
Ohio travels to Emerson, Ga., to play a four-game series against SIU Edwardsville (Feb. 24-26) followed by a matchup against Alabama State on Feb. 28 at the same site.