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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (19-20, 5-7 MAC) looks to keep pace in the race for a spot in the 2017 league tournament as it visits Kalamazoo, Mich., this weekend for a three-game series with West Division foe Western Michigan (16-19, 6-9 MAC) at Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field.
Rain in the forecast has altered the weekend series schedule. The series will now open with a Friday (April 28) doubleheader beginning at noon ET. Action will wrap up on Saturday (April 29), with first pitch time still to be determined.
The Bobcats and the Broncos are currently seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 11-team league standings. The top eight teams qualify for the 2017 MAC Championship, which will be held May 24-28 at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio.
'Voice of the Bobcats' Russ Eisenstein will have the call of all three games on WOUB 1340 AM and online on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday Doubleheader Game 1: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. Western Michigan Sr. RHP #18 Kyle Mallwitz | StatBroadcast
Friday Doubleheader Game 2: Ohio TBD vs. Western Michigan Jr. LHP #35 Jacob Piechota | StatBroadcast
Saturday: Ohio TBD vs. Western Michigan R-Jr. RHP #30 Jimmy Townsend-Chase | StatBroadcast
BOBCATS TAKE KEY MAC SERIES FROM EAST DIVISION ARCHRIVAL MIAMI
Ohio took two of three games from East Division archrival Miami for a key MAC series win last weekend at Bob Wren Stadium.
The Bobcats picked up their second league series victory of the 2017 season.
Ohio opened the weekend with a 9-5 victory last Friday (April 21). After dropping a 3-1 decision on Saturday (April 22), the Green & White bounced back with a 3-2 triumph in the Sunday (April 23) series finale.
RUDNICKI NAMED MAC EAST DIVISION PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Ohio baseball senior right-handed pitcher Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) was named the MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week, as announced by the league office on Monday (April 24).
Rudnicki garnered weekly conference honors for the second time in his career and first time in 2017. He became the third Bobcat to earn such recognition this season. Redshirt junior right-hander Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) was named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 27 while junior southpaw Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) earned honors on March 6. The Bobcats have also garnered four MAC East Division Player of the Week nods this year. Senior outfielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.) was named MAC East Division Player of the Week on both March 20 and April 4 while redshirt junior infielder/right-handed pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) garnered recognition on Feb. 20 and sophomore first baseman Rudy Rott received honors on April 17.
Rudnicki helped Ohio finish with three victories in four games last week with his performance out of the bullpen, going 2-0 with four strikeouts while allowing just six hits, four walks and no runs over three appearances and 4.2 innings of work. Rudnicki threw one scoreless inning of relief last Wednesday (April 19) in an 11-10 win in 10 innings over longtime rival Marshall at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio, fanning two while giving up a hit and a walk. On Friday, he picked up his first victory on the mound of the 2017 season in a 9-5 triumph over MAC East Division archrival Miami at Bob Wren Stadium, striking out one while surrendering just three hits and two walks in 1.2 frames. Rudnicki improved to 2-3 on the year by earning the win on the mound in the Sunday series finale -- a 3-2 win that allowed the Bobcats to clinch the weekend series from the RedHawks. He struck out one while giving up two hits and a walk in two scoreless frames of relief.
ROEHN NAMED TO NCBWA 2017 STOPPER OF THE YEAR MIDSEASON WATCH LIST
Redshirt junior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) has been honored as one of 40 of the top relief pitchers in college baseball to be named to the Midseason Watch List for the 13th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, as announced by members of the association on Wednesday (April 26).
Roehn is one of 16 of the 40 players who were on the preseason watch list released on Feb. 13 and is the lone representative from the MAC.
Roehn has made 19 appearances out of the bullpen in 2017, sporting a 3-2 record with a 1.88 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 28.2 innings of work. He has allowed just six earned runs on 23 hits and 12 walks. His nine saves are a career-high, are tied with Chad Reed (1992) for the second-most in program history and bring his career total to 16, which ranks third in program history. Roehn was named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career on Feb. 27 after picking up both wins on the mound out of the bullpen in a 6-4 win over SIU Edwardsville on Feb. 25 and a 2-1 win in 13 innings over the Cougars the following day. He did not allow a run in five innings of relief and struck out eight while giving up just three hits and one walk over the two victories.
Texas hurler J. Brent Cox won the inaugural Stopper of the Year Award in 2005, with Don Czyz of Kansas claiming the honor in 2006 and Luke Prihoda of Sam Houston State winning it in 2007. Georgia's Joshua Fields topped the field in 2008, San Diego State's Addison Reed grabbed the honor in 2009 and Texas' Chance Ruffin earned the honor in 2010. The Longhorns' Corey Knebel won in 2011, with Southeastern Louisiana's Stefan Lopez picking up the honor in 2012. UCLA's David Berg was crowned the winner in 2013, Louisville's Nick Burdi took home the 2014 honor and Berg became the award's first two-time winner in 2015. Miami (Fla.)'s Bryan Garcia was honored as the 2016 recipient.
The NCBWA, founded in 1962, presents the Dick Howser Trophy to the nation's top player. It also selects All-America Teams for all Divisions, a Division I Freshman All-American team, Division I, II and III Players of the Week and Division I, II and III Players of the Year.
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.
IBARRA OFF TO STRONG START
Through 39 games in 2017, Ibarra leads the Bobcats with a .325 batting average, a .586 slugging percentage (third-best in the MAC), a .390 on-base percentage, 51 hits, a MAC-high 10 home runs and 31 runs scored. He also ranks second on the team with 27 RBIs and nine doubles and is tied for second on the squad with 13 walks. He has tallied a team-high 16 multi-hit games and six multi-RBI contests.
Ibarra has been named MAC East Division Player of the Week twice in 2017, with his most recent honor coming on April 4. He helped Ohio start MAC play 3-0 for the first time since 1997 with his effort at the plate, leading the Bobcats in batting average (.462), slugging percentage (.615), hits (6), doubles (2) and runs scored (4). He also drove in three runs. Ibarra opened the week by going 3-for-4 in a 3-0 loss at Ohio State on March 28 in Columbus. He then went 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored in the 6-4 win over Ball State in the opening game of a doubleheader on April 1. Ibarra finished the series by going 1-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in a 7-4 win in the second game of the twin bill, then going 1-for-2 with a pair of stolen bases in the 10-0 blowout of the Cardinals in the finale on April 2 that clinched the series sweep for the Bobcats.
Ohio's 0.984 team fielding percentage ranks fourth in the nation entering this weekend's series. The Bobcats have committed just 24 errors in 39 games.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Ohio has established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats own a 4.27 ERA, which is third-best in the league. Ohio also ranks second in the MAC in his allowed per nine innings (8.76) and ranks third in both walks allowed per nine innings (4.34) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.3).
Ohio's pitching staff has recorded four shutout victories in 2017 after posting just one in 52 games in '16.
The tone for the Bobcats' success on the mound has been set up by the starting pitchers. Redshirt junior righty Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) is 3-2 with a 2.68 ERA (third-best in the MAC) and is tied for third on the team lead with 40 strikeouts over 43.2 innings. He has given up just 13 earned runs and 15 walks. Junior left-hander Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) sports a 4-2 record, fanning a team-high 47 over a team-high 54.1 innings to rank second on the squad in both strikeouts and innings pitched. He was named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week on March 6 after helping Ohio come away with a weekend series win at Western Kentucky thanks to his performance on the mound on March 4 in a 3-0 shutout victory at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. He improved to 2-0 on the bump, tossing 6.2 frames and striking out two while allowing four hits and two walks in his third start as the Bobcats blanked the Hilltoppers. Redshirt junior left-hander Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) is second on the team with 44 strikeouts and has thrown 53.2 innings on the mound, which also ranks second on the squad.
Redshirt sophomore right-hander Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) owns a 2.08 ERA over 11 appearances and 17.1 frames of work. Moving to the bullpen after spending the last three seasons as a starting pitcher, Rudnicki is tied for third on the squad with 40 strikeouts over 30.0 innings of relief. Redshirt junior righty Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) has fanned 37 in 16 appearances and 29.0 innings. He sports a 3.41 ERA, and he is fifth on the team in strikeouts. Senior southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) has made 17 relief appearances and sports a 3.24 ERA. Senior righty Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) leads the team with a MAC-high 21 appearances out of the bullpen while sophomore right-hander Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) ranks second on the team with 19. Colletti has fanned 30 strikeouts in 33.1 innings of work.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein is third on the team in RBIs (20), fourth in both hits (41) and runs scored (21), tied for fourth in doubles (6) and fifth in both batting average (.279) and slugging percentage (.415).
On Feb. 20, Klein was named MAC East Division Player of the Week. He put together a huge weekend for Ohio to help the Bobcats come away victorious in three of four games in Lexington, S.C., on the first weekend of the 2017 regular season. Klein led the team in batting average (.400), slugging percentage (.867), hits (6), home runs (2), RBIs (5) and total bases (13).
RU-DY, RU-DY, RU-DY
Rott returns after a stellar freshmen season. Rott was one of just four Bobcat position players to play in all 52 of Ohio's 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 39 games in 2017, Rott leads the leads the Bobcats with 30 RBIs, 10 doubles and 15 walks, ranks second on the team with a .497 slugging percentage, a .383 on-base percentage, 45 hits, a career-high seven home runs and 26 runs scored and is third with a .294 batting average. He has reached base in each of the last 12 games, which currently ranks second on the team.
Rott was named MAC East Division Player of the Week for the first time in his career on April 17 after putting together a monster week at the plate for Ohio, batting .429 with a team-best 1.190 slugging percentage and recording a team-high nine hits -- including a team-high five home runs -- to go along with a team-high 13 RBIs and seven runs scored, which tied for the team lead. Rott opened the week by going 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored on April 11 in a 6-5 victory at Youngstown State. The following day at Marshall, he tallied his second home run of the season. Rott then came up with two huge performances in the final two games of a three-game set at MAC West Division foe Eastern Michigan. On April 15, he went 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs and six RBIs. Rott closed the week out by providing the Bobcats with three hits -- including a pair of home runs -- and driving in six runs for the second game in a row in the April 16 series finale.
LOOKING TO FINISH STRONG
A four-year starter for the Bobcats, senior infielder Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) is looking to finish his career at Ohio at a high note. He ranks third on the squad with 43 hits and seven doubles, is tied for fourth with 19 RBIs and ranks fifth with 19 runs scored. He has reached base in 15-straight games, which is currently tops on the team.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THEIR OPPORTUNITIES
Senior infielder Connor Callery (Covington, Ky.) and redshirt junior catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) are both taking advantage of increased playing time for the Bobcats in 2017.
Callery has started 37 of the 38 games he's played in this year, ranking fourth on the team with a .292 batting average and fifth with 40 hits. He has hit safely in each of the last 11 games, which currently leads the team. Bredeson has made 19 starts in 28 games played, ranking second in batting average (.310), third in on-base percentage (.368), fourth in slugging percentage (.425) and tied for fourth with six doubles.
THREAT TO STEAL
Senior infielder Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) has stolen 13 bases in 15 attempts in 2017 to set a new career high.
Finkler is tied for third on the team in runs scored (22) and is tied for fourth in RBIs (19). Defensively, he owns a .984 fielding percentage and has logged a team-high 129 assists.
Rob Smith is in his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 103 games at Ohio and led the Bobcats to a MAC tournament title and an NCAA Championship berth in 2015.
The Bobcats have totaled 44 MAC victories during Smith's tenure as head coach.
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.
SCOUTING WESTERN MICHIGAN
Ohio is 3-6 against Western Michigan in the Smith era. The Bobcats visit Kalamazoo for a second-straight season. The Broncons took two of three from Ohio in 2016. Western Michigan won the first two games of the series, 6-0 (May 13) and 14-7 (May 14), before the Bobcats salvaged the weekend with a 7-5 triumph in the Sunday (May 15) finale.
Billy Gernon is in year seven as head coach at Western Michigan, guiding the Broncos to the program's first MAC tournament crown in 2016. His team is one of the top offensive squads in the league this year, ranking second in batting average (.299) and slugging percentage (.404), third in hits (95) and fifth in runs (167).
Western Michigan is coming off of a big series over MAC West Division rival Eastern Michigan last weekend at home. After the Eagles posted a 6-2 victory on Friday, the Broncos answered back with wins of 4-3 in 11 innings on Saturday and 6-1 on Sunday.
Junior left-handed pitcher Tanner Allison doubles as one of the top hitters in the MAC, ranking third in the league in batting average (.378), first in RBIs (49; 14th in the country) and tied for fourth in home runs (8). He leads the Broncos with 54 hits -- including a team-high 11 doubles. Sophomore infielder Connor Smith ranks second on the team with a .336 batting average, 51 hits -- including 10 doubles -- and 27 RBIs. He's scored a team-high 31 runs and is tied for the MAC lead with five triples.
Senior right-handed pitcher Kyle Mallwitz is the ace of Western Michigan's pitching staff. He's struck out a team-high 53 batters over a team-high 63.1 innings of work.
Ohio plays its final non-conference road game of the 2017 season next Tuesday (May 2) when it makes the trip to Kentucky to take on Morehead State.