FOLLOW OHIO BASEBALL: Facebook | Twitter
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (11-12) opens 2017 Mid-American Conference play this weekend with a trip to Muncie, Ind., to battle West Division foe Ball State (11-14, 0-3 MAC).
The series opener is scheduled for Friday (March 31) at 3 p.m. ET. Both the Saturday (April 1) and Sunday (April 2) contests are scheduled for 1 p.m. ET first pitches.
'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.
On Friday, Ohio will be looking to came away with a win in its conference opener for the first time since a 6-4 win at Central Michigan on March 20, 2015, in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. Ball State Sr. RHP #22 BJ Butler | SIDEARM Stats | Live Video
Saturday: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. Ball State R-So. RHP #44 Evan Marquardt | SIDEARM Stats | Live Video
Sunday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Ball State R-Sr. LHP #18 Kevin Marnon | SIDEARM Stats | Live Video
BOBCATS SUFFER SETBACK AT OHIO STATE
Ohio fell to in-state rival Ohio State, 3-0, on Tuesday (March 28) at Bill Davis Stadium.
The Bobcats came up on the short end of the scoreboard despite limiting the Buckeyes to just six hits.
Senior right fielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.) accounted for three of Ohio's six hits, collecting three singles.
The Bobcats utilized the services of seven pitchers. Redshirt junior right-hander Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) got his third start of the year, striking out three over three innings of work while allowing a hit and a walk. Sophomore righty Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.), senior left-hander Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.), senior right-hander Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) and redshirt junior righty Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) combined to throw four scoreless innings of relief for Ohio.
Ohio will be looking to put a halt to a season-long five-game losing streak when it takes on Ball State this weekend in Muncie.
IBARRA OFF TO STRONG START
Through 23 games in 2017, Ibarra leads the Bobcats with a .311 batting average, 28 hits and 14 runs scored, is tied for the team lead with four home runs, is tied for second on the squad with 12 RBIs, ranks second with a .467 slugging percentage and is third with a .351 on-base percentage. He leads the team with seven multi-hit games.
Ibarra was named the MAC East Division Player of the Week on March 20. He earned weekly conference honors for the first time in his Ohio career after putting together a monster week (March 16-19) at the plate to help Ohio secure three victories at Bob Wren Stadium. Ibarra batted .467 with a 1.133 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage over four games and 15 at-bats. He collected a team-high seven hits and homered in three of the Bobcats' four games. He also tallied a team-high five RBIs and six runs scored.
Ohio's 0.985 team fielding percentage ranks third in the nation entering the first weekend of MAC play. The Bobcats have committed just 13 errors in 23 games.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Ohio has established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats own a 3.60 ERA, which is the best in the league and ranks 52nd in the NCAA. Ohio is also tops in the conference in both strikeouts per nine innings (8.8) and hits allowed per nine innings (8.0) and ranks second in walks allowed per nine innings (3.69).
Ohio's pitching staff has recorded three shutout victories in 23 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. Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) is 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA and is tied for second on the team with 27 strikeouts over 24.2 innings. He has given up just six earned runs and six walks. Junior left-hander Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) sports a 2.75 ERA and a 3-0 record, fanning 27 over a team-high 36.0 innings. 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 this year, 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 1-2 with a 3.27 ERA. He leads the team with 32 strikeouts in 33.0 innings on the mound.
Roehn has made 11 appearances out of the bullpen, fanning 20 in just 16.2 innings while allowing just three earned runs. He has notched four saves this season, bringing his career total to 11. 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. Redshirt sophomore righty Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) owns a 1.00 ERA over six appearances and 9.0 frames of work. Moving to the bullpen after spending the last three seasons as a starting pitcher, senior right-hander Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) is fifth on the squad with 23 strikeouts over 16.0 innings of relief and owns an 2.25 ERA. Blessing has fanned 25 in eight appearances and 17.0 innings. He sports a 1.59 ERA, and he ranks fourth on the team in strikeouts. Mikolajczak has made 10 relief appearances and sports a 2.53 ERA. Colletti and Ogg are tied for the team lead with 13 appearances out of the bullpen. Colletti has struck out 17 over 20.0 frames of work, and his ERA currently stands at 3.15.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein is slugging a team-best .505 and leads the squad with .366 on-base percentage and 13 RBIs. He is also tied for the team lead with five doubles and four home runs, is second on the squad with 27 hits and a .297 batting average and is tied for third on the team with 11 runs scored.
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).
THREAT TO STEAL
Senior infielder Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) has stolen nine bases in 10 attempts in 2017 to set a new career high.
Finkler is second on the team in runs scored (13), is tied for second in RBIs (12), ranks third in slugging percentage (.326) and fifth in hits (21).
Rob Smith is in his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 95 games at Ohio and led the Bobcats to a MAC tournament title and an NCAA Championship berth in 2015.
The Bobcats have totaled 41 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.
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
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.
Rott currently ranks fourth on the team with 22 hits -- including five doubles, which is tied for the team lead. He is also tied for third on the team with 11 runs scored and is fourth in on-base percentage (.346) and fifth in both batting average (.250) and slugging percentage (.307).
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 21 of the 22 games he's played in this year, ranking third on the team with a .282 batting average. Bredeson has made 12 starts in 16 games played, ranking fourth on the team in slugging percentage (.321) and RBIs (10). His three doubles are good for third on the team.
SCOUTING BALL STATE
The Bobcats have posted three wins over Ball State in the Smith era -- the biggest of which came on May 24, 2015, in the 2015 MAC Championship Game in Avon, Ohio. Ohio came away with a 6-2 win over the Cardinals to secure its second league tournament title and a spot in the 2015 NCAA Championship field.
Ohio visits Muncie for the second year in a row. The Bobcats logged a 12-6 win over Ball State in 10 innings in the series opener on April 1, 2016, but dropped the next two games of the three-game weekend set by scores of 17-14 and 20-3 over the following two days.
The Cardinals enter this weekend's series having lost five in a row -- including suffering a three-game weekend sweep at the hands of MAC East Division foe Kent State in their opening weekend of MAC play last weekend at Ball Diamond. The Golden Flashes outscored Ball State by a 21-12 count. Ball State then dropped a midweek contest to Butler on Tuesday, 7-3.
Rich Maloney is in the fifth season of his second stint as head coach at Ball State. His pitching staff ranks second in the conference in ERA (3.67), third in both strikeouts per nine innings (8.7) and hits allowed per nine innings (8.63) and fourth in walks allowed per nine innings (4.42).
Senior right-handed pitcher BJ Butler is second in the MAC with a 1.31 ERA. He's fanned a team-high 36 batters over a team-high 41.1 innings of work.
Redshirt sophomore Griffin Hulecki is hitting a team-best .308. Senior infielder Sean Kennedy has compiled a team-high 28 hits -- including a team-high five doubles. Senior infielder Alex Maloney leads the Cardinals with three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Ohio returns to Bob Wren Stadium next Tuesday (April 4) to battle in-state rival Dayton in a 6 p.m. ET matchup.