FOLLOW OHIO BASEBALL: Facebook | Twitter
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (5-4) is set to play its first true road series of the 2017 season this weekend as it visits Bowling Green, Ky., for a three-game series against Western Kentucky (3-6) at Nick Denes Field.
The Bobcats and the Hilltoppers open the weekend set on Friday (March 3) in a 4 p.m. ET matchup. The Saturday (March 4) and Sunday (March 5) contests are both scheduled for 2 p.m. ET first pitches.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. Western Kentucky R-Jr. LHP #20 Ryan Thurston | Gametracker | Live Video
Saturday: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. Western Kentucky Jr. RHP #28 Paul Kirkpatrick | Gametracker | Live Audio
Sunday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Western Kentucky Sr. RHP #15 Cody Coll | Gametracker | Live Video
OHIO PICKS UP TWO WINS IN GEORGIA
Ohio is coming off five neutral-site games in Emerson, Ga. The Bobcats split a four-game series with SIU Edwardsville last weekend. Ohio lost the series opener, 2-1, last Friday (Feb. 24). The Bobcats split a Saturday (Feb. 25) doubleheader with the Cougars, posting a 6-4 triumph in the first game before falling by a score of 7-4 in the second. Ohio won the Sunday (Feb. 26) series finale, 2-1, in 13 innings.
The Bobcats' stay in Emerson concluded on Tuesday (Feb. 28) with a 12-6 loss at the hands of Alabama State.
ROEHN NAMED MAC EAST DIVISION PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) was named the Mid-American Conference East Division Pitcher of the Week, as announced by the league office on Monday (Feb. 27).
Roehn earned weekly conference honors for the first time in his Ohio career.
Roehn helped Ohio split the four-game series against SIU Edwardsville, picking up both wins on the mound out of the bullpen. He did not allow a run in five innings of relief and struck out eight while giving up just three hits and one walk. Roehn fanned four against just one walk and did not allow a hit in two innings on the bump as the Bobcats posted a 6-4 win over the Cougars on Saturday (Feb. 25) in the first game of a doubleheader. The following day, Roehn struck out four in three innings and gave just three hits over three innings as Ohio edged SIU Edwardsville, 2-1, in 13 innings. He combined with three other Bobcat pitchers to hold the Cougars to just one earned run on eight hits and two walks over 13 frames and total 20 strikeouts.
BOBCATS TAKE THREE OF FOUR IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Ohio opened the 2017 campaign by winning three of four neutral-site games in Lexington, S.C.
The Bobcats lifted the lid off of the new season with a 10-2 win over La Salle on Feb. 17. Ohio took its second game against the Explorers on Feb. 18 by a 14-5 score. The Bobcats suffered their first loss of the season later that afternoon in a 15-4 defeat at the hands of Butler, but Ohio bounced back the next day by shutting out the Bulldogs, 4-0.
Ohio's bats averaged eight runs per game and tallied nine extra base hits -- including three home runs. The Bobcats' pitching staff totaled 45 strikeouts over 35.0 innings.
KLEIN NAMED MAC EAST DIVISION PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Redshirt junior infielder/right-handed pitcher Michael Klein was named the MAC East Division Player of the Week, as announced by the league office on Feb. 20.
Klein earned weekly conference honors for the first time in his Ohio career.
Klein put together a huge weekend for Ohio to help the Bobcats come away victorious in three of four games in Lexington, S.C. Klein led the team in batting average (.400), slugging percentage (.867), hits (6), home runs (2), RBIs (5) and total bases (13). He also scored three runs, walked twice and posted an on-base percentage of .471. Klein went 3-for-3 with a three-run home run to help Ohio thump La Salle in the 2017 season opener. The following day against the Explorers, he went 3-for-5 with a double and his second home run in as many days the victory for the Bobcats. Klein also got the start on the mound on Sunday (Feb. 19) in a 4-0 shutout of Butler. He tossed the first four scoreless frames, striking out five.
SENIOR SHINES ON OPENING WEEKEND
Senior shortstop Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) led off the bottom of the first with a home run to left to start up Ohio's bats in the win over Butler. Finkler finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. His opening weekend three hits, four runs scored and five RBIs.
Finkler currently leads the team with nine RBIs and is second in on-base percentage (.425), tied for second in hits (10), third in both batting average (.313) and slugging percentage (.406) and tied for fourth in runs scored (5). He leads the team with three multi-RBI games so far and has a six-game hitting streak entering this weekend's series at Western Kentucky.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Opening weekend saw the Bobcats put the pitching depth that is expected to help carry them to success this season on display.
Redshirt junior southpaw starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) gave Ohio a solid 5.1 innings of work on the mound in the season opener, fanning eight while giving up two earned runs on four hits and two walks en route to picking up the victory. He is 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA over two starts 11.1 innings pitched and is for the team lead with 14 strikeouts.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.), senior right-hander Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.), redshirt junior righty Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) and freshman lefty Nick Byrnes (Cincinnati, Ohio) combined to toss 3.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Bobcats on opening day. Ogg struck out one while Colletti, Blessing and Byrnes each recorded two strikeouts. Ogg has made four appearances out of the pen so far for Ohio and sports a 2.08 ERA. Colletti has made a team-high five appearances and has compiled seven strikeouts against just one earned run allowed on two hits and a walk. Blessing has fanned 13 over seven innings of work.
Making his Ohio debut on the mound, junior southpaw starting pitcher Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) fanned three and allowed just one earned run on five hits in the Feb. 18 victory over La Salle. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.), senior righty Christian Botter (Toronto, Ontario) and senior left-hander Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) combined to toss 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Kamrada has not given up a run in three appearances and 4.2 frames of relief. In last Sunday's extra-innings win over SIU Edwardsville in Georiga, Mikolajczak tossed a scoreless 13th inning to nail down his first career save.
In the Sunday finale against Butler on opening weekend, Klein, Colletti, senior righty Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) and Roehn combined to throw a four-hit shutout for the Bobcats. Klein tossed the first four scoreless frames, striking out five. Colletti fanned two in two innings of work. Rudnicki totaled four strikeouts over two frames. Roehn came on in the top of the ninth inning and struck out two. Klein is tied with Salisbury for the team lead with 14 strikeouts and has allowed only one earned run on five hits and three walks over two starts and nine innings of work. Rudnicki owns a 1.29 ERA with 13 strikeouts in three relief appearances and seven innings.
Head coach Rob Smith is in his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 89 games at Ohio and led the Bobcats to a MAC tournament title and an NCAA Championship berth in 2015.
OHIO PICKED THIRD IN MAC EAST
Ohio was picked to finish third in the East Division according to the 2017 MAC Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on 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
Roehn 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.
On Feb. 13, Roehn was named to the 2017 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
RU-DY, RU-DY, RU-DY
Sophomore infielder/catcher 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.
Through nine games in 2017, Rott owns a .286 batting average with 10 hits -- including a pair of doubles -- to go along with four RBIs and five runs scored.
SCOUTING WESTERN KENTUCKY
Western Kentucky is led by third-year head coach John Pawlowski. The Hilltoppers were picked to finish last out of 12 teams in the 2017 Conference USA Preseason Poll.
The Hilltoppers are 3-6 and most recently dropped a 10-4 decision at home against Lipscomb on Tuesday followed by a 17-2 defeat at the hands of in-state rival Kentucky the next day.
Senior catcher Hunter Wood is Western Kentucky's top hitter with a team-high 10 hits -- including two doubles and two homers -- to go along with a team-high seven RBIs as well as five runs scored.
Redshirt junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Thurston and junior righty Paul Kirkpatrick have both made two starts on the mound this year for Western Kentucky and both sport 5.23 ERAs and have each tossed 10.1 innings. Thurston has logged a team-high 13 strikeouts.
Ohio will play four games in the Dayton-area next weekend. The Bobcats are scheduled to play Dayton next Friday (March 10), then visit Wright State in a Saturday (March 11) doubleheader in Fairborn before closing the weekend with a Sunday (March 12) matchup against Western Illinois in Dayton.