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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (7-5) is ready to play three games over four days this weekend in Dayton, Ohio. The Bobcats will battle host Wright State (7-5) on both Thursday (March 9; noon ET) and Friday (March 10; 3 p.m. ET), then take on Western Illinois (0-10) on Sunday (March 12; 4:30 p.m. ET. All three contests will be played at Nischwitz Stadium.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Thursday: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. Wright State TBA | StatBroadcast
Friday: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. Wright State TBA | StatBroadcast
Sunday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Western Illinois TBA
OHIO TAKES WEEKEND SERIES AT WESTERN KENTUCKY
After dropping a 5-4 decision last Friday (March 3) in the weekend series opener at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky., the Bobcats bounced back with a pair of 3-0 victories on Saturday (March 4) and Sunday (March 5) to take the three-game weekend set from host Western Kentucky.
Ohio's pitching staff was masterful in last Saturday's win, limiting Western Kentucky to no runs on five hits and two walks. Junior southpaw starting pitcher Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) improved to 2-0 on the bump this year, tossing 6.2 frames and striking out two while allowing four hits and two walks in his third start. He garnered Mid-American Conference East Division Pitcher of the Week honors for the first time in his career for his effort. Senior righty Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) fanned two over 1.1 perfect innings of relief. Redshirt junior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) picked up his first save of the season after tallying two strikeouts while permitting one hit in a scoreless bottom of the ninth.
The senior middle infield combo of second baseman Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) and shortstop Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) did the bulk of the damage at the plate for the Bobcats, accounting for five of Ohio's eight hits. Black went 3-for-4 with an RBI while Finkler collected two hits -- including his second home run of the season.
In the Sunday series finale against the Hilltoppers, redshirt junior right-handed starting pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), sophomore righty Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.), senior right-hander Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) and Roehn combined to limit Western Kentucky to just three hits and four walks. Klein picked up his first win on the mound of the season, fanning one while scattering three hits and allowing a walk over five strong innings. Ogg, Colletti and Roehn threw four hitless innings out of the bullpen. Ogg pitched a perfect sixth inning. Colletti struck out two and permitted one walk in two innings. Roehn tallied one strikeout and walked two in the ninth en route to earning his second-straight save, bringing his career total to nine.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Ohio has established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC through three weeks of the 2017 season.
The Bobcats rank second in the conference and 117th in the nation with a staff ERA of 4.13, second in the league and 64th in the country with 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings, third in the conference and 61st in the nation with 7.93 hits allowed per nine innings and third in the league and 155th in the nation with 4.21 walks allowed per nine innings.
Ohio's pitching staff has recorded three shutout victories in 12 games 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. Klein is 1-0 with a team-best 0.64 ERA and is tied for the team lead with 15 strikeouts over 14.0 innings. He has given up just one earned run on eight hits and four walks. Baird sports a 2.04 ERA and a 2-0 record, fanning eight over a team-high 17.2 innings while giving up four earned runs on 15 hits and five walks. Redshirt junior left-hander Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA. He's tied for the team lead with 15 strikeouts in 16 innings on the mound. He's allowed seven earned runs on 17 hits and six walks.
Colletti has made a team-high seven appearances out of the bullpen for the Bobcats and owns a 0.96 ERA with 10 strikeouts over 9.1 frames. Roehn has made five appearances, fanning 13 in just 8.0 innings and has yet to surrender a run. He 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. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) and senior southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) each own 0.00 ERAs. Kamrada has struck out three in three appearances and 4.2 innings while Mikolajczak has made four appearances and tossed 4.2 innings, tallying strikeouts. He earned his first career save 2-1 win over SIU Edwardsville in 13 innings on Feb. 26 in Emerson, Ga. Moving to the bullpen after spending the last three seasons as a starting pitcher, Rudnicki is tied for the team with 15 strikeouts over 8.1 innings of relief and owns a 1.08 ERA. Ogg and redshirt junior righty Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) have also performed well out of the bullpen. Ogg has made six appearances and thrown 6.2 innings, striking out two and putting a 2.70 ERA while Blessing has fanned 13 in four appearances and 8.0 innings and has a 3.38 ERA.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein is batting a team-best .326 with a team-best .587 slugging percentage and a team-high 15 hits -- including a team-high tying three doubles and a team-high three home runs -- to go along with eight RBIs, which ranks second on the squad.
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).
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 91 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 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.
SCOUTING WRIGHT STATE
Wright State is guided by first-year head coach Jeff Mercer. The Raiders were tabbed as the Horizon League's preseason favorite after reaching the NCAA Champaign Regional Final and the NCAA Louisville Regional Final in back-to-back seasons. Wright State eliminated Ohio from the NCAA Champaign Regional in 2015 with an 8-3 victory on May 31, 2015, in the last meeting between the two squads.
The Raiders enter the fourth weekend of the 2017 season coming off of a 15-1 defeat the hands of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.
Freshman infielder Seth Gray is hitting a team-best .333 with a team-best .489 slugging percentage and a team-high 15 hits -- including a team-high four doubles as well as a home run -- to go along with eight RBIs. Redshirt sophomore outfielder/right-handed pitcher Adrian Marquez has driven in a team-high 12 runs and is batting .250 with 10 hits -- including a double and a team-high tying two home runs.
Redshirt junior southpaw Danny Sexton and sophomore left-hander Zane Collins are Wright State's top-two-arms. Sexton is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA and a team-high strikeouts over a team-high 21.2 innings of work in three starts. Collins is 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 17.0 innings and three starts.
SCOUTING WESTERN ILLINOIS
Western Illinois is in search of its first victory of the 2017 season. The Leathernecks are led by fifth-year head coach Ryan Brownlee.
Senior catcher Adam McGinnis leads Western Illinois at the plate with a .367 batting average and a .567 slugging percentage, posting a team-high 11 hits -- including a team-high tying three doubles as well as a home run -- to go along with six RBIs, which ranks second on the squad. Sophomore infielder Drue Galassi has tallied a team-high seven RBIs and two home runs for the Leathernecks.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ian Koch has logged a team-high 16 strikeouts over a team-high 17.2 frames of work and three starts, sporting a 3.06 ERA.
Ohio takes on Marshall next Tuesday (March 14) in Huntington, W. Va., in the first of three matchups between the two longtime rivals. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.