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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (15-12, 3-0 MAC) plays host to a three-game series against Mid-American Conference West Division foe Central Michigan (14-14, 3-0 MAC) in a matchup of the league's only two remaining unbeaten teams in conference play this weekend at Bob Wren Stadium.
The Bobcats and the Chippewas will play a Saturday (April 8) doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. ET. The series finale is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET start on Sunday (April 9).
'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.
The first 250 fans through the gates will receive a free t-shirt on Saturday. The series finale will mark another 'Sunday Funday', with all fans receiving free admission courtesy of OhioHealth. Kids will also have the opportunity to run the bases at Bob Wren Stadium following the game.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Saturday Game 1: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. Central Michigan So. RHP #42 Dazon Cole | Gametracker
Saturday Game 2: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. Central Michigan Fr. LHP #35 Tyler Hankins | Gametracker
Sunday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Central Michigan So. RHP #17 Pat Leatherman | Gametracker
OHIO BESTS DAYTON FOR FOURTH-STRAIGHT WIN
Behind a career-high three hits from freshman catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.) and seven pitchers combining to toss a three-hitter, Ohio extended its win streak to four games with a 5-2 win over in-state rival Dayton on Tuesday (April 4) at Bob Wren Stadium.
The Bobcats beat the Flyers for the second year in a row. Ohio has won four-straight games for the first time since 2015.
Piechnick collected his first career double and triple in the victory.
Redshirt junior right-hander Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) pitched 2.1 relief frames, striking out two and allowing two earned runs. He picked up the win, improving to 3-1 on the year. Redshirt junior closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) came on in the ninth to nail down the victory for the Bobcats. He struck out two and gave up a walk en route to his sixth save of the year, bringing his career total to 13, which ranks as the third most in school history. Redshirt sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.), senior left-hander Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.), junior right-hander Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.), sophomore right-hander Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.), senior right-hander Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) and Roehn combined for 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing a hit and two walks and striking out five.
BOBCATS SWEEP BALL STATE TO OPEN 2017 MAC SCHEDULE
Ohio came firing out of the gate to begin 2017 MAC play last weekend at Ball Diamond in Muncie, Ind. The Bobcats swept MAC West Division foe Ball State, taking both games of a Saturday (April 1) doubleheader by scores of 6-4 and 7-4, then blasting the Cardinals, 10-0, in the Sunday (April 2) series finale.
Ohio is off to its first 3-0 start to MAC play since the 1997 squad began the league slate 4-0. The Bobcats last swept a MAC series May 8-10, 2015, recording wins of 5-0, 10-3 and 10-2 at Eastern Michigan. Ohio swept a series from Ball State for the first time since a four-game sweep in 1996 and swept a three-game series in Muncie for the first time.
The Bobcats' bats exploded for 10 runs on a season-high 18 hits on Sunday. Ohio's 10-run margin of victory over Ball State represented the program's largest in a MAC game since a 17-5 throttling of MAC East Division archrival Miami on May 16, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. The Bobcats defeated the Cardinals by at least 10 runs for the first time since logging a 14-4 win since the 2003 MAC Tournament.
Five Bobcats tallied multi-hit efforts in the victory. Sophomore center fielder Devon Garcia (Bowling Green, Ohio) went a perfect 4-for-4 with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored. Senior second baseman Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) finished 3-for-5 with his first home run of the 2017 season, a walk, three RBIs and two runs scored. Redshirt junior catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) went 3-for-5 with a triple. Senior third baseman Connor Callery (Covington, Ky.) posted a 3-for-4 effort that included a double, a walk and two runs scored. Sophomore first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored.
The performance by Ohio's pitching staff was just as a stellar, as the Bobcats held the Cardinals to just four hits and four walks en route to the squad's fourth shutout win of the 2017 season. Ohio posted its first MAC regular season shutout win since the 5-0 win at Eastern Michigan in 2015 and shutout Ball State for the first since a 1-0 win in Muncie in 2000.
Redshirt junior right-handed starting pitcher Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was masterful in eight innings on the mound, fanning nine while allowing just four hits and four walks. His nine strikeouts matched his career high. Senior southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) tossed a perfect ninth inning. Neither Klein nor Mikolajczak allowed an extra-base hit.
IBARRA OFF TO STRONG START
Senior outfielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.) was named the MAC East Division Player of the Week, as announced by the league office on Tuesday (April 4). He earned weekly conference honors for the second time in his Ohio career.
Ibarra helped Ohio start MAC play 3-0 for the first time since 1997 with his effort at the plate last week, 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. 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 that clinched the series sweep for the Bobcats.
Through 27 games in 2017, Ibarra leads the Bobcats with a .320 batting average, 33 hits and 19 runs scored, is tied for the team lead with four home runs, is second on the squad with 15 RBIs, ranks second with a .476 slugging percentage and a .374 on-base percentage and is third with four doubles. He leads the team with nine multi-hit games.
Ohio's 0.983 team fielding percentage ranks fourth in the nation entering this weekend's series. The Bobcats have committed just 17 errors in 27 games.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Ohio has established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats own a 3.33 ERA, which is the best in the league and ranks 37th in the NCAA. Ohio is also tops in the conference in hits allowed per nine innings (7.68) and ranks third in both strikeouts per nine innings (8.6) and walks allowed per nine innings (3.73).
Ohio's pitching staff has recorded four shutout victories in 27 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 3-1 with a MAC-best 1.65 ERA and is tied for the team lead with 36 strikeouts over 32.2 innings. He has given up just six earned runs and 10 walks. Junior left-hander Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) sports a 3.07 ERA and a 4-0 record, fanning 30 over a team-high 41.0 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 3.32 ERA. He is tied with Klein for the team lead with 36 strikeouts in 38.0 innings on the mound.
Roehn has made 13 appearances out of the bullpen, fanning 22 in just 18.2 innings while allowing just three earned runs. His six saves lead the conference and rank 29th in the country. 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. Kamrada owns a 0.90 ERA over seven appearances and 10.0 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 25 strikeouts over 18.0 innings of relief and owns a 2.00 ERA. Blessing has fanned 31 in 10 appearances and 22.1 innings. He sports a 2.01 ERA, and he ranks third on the team in strikeouts. Mikolajczak has made 12 relief appearances and sports a 2.13 ERA. Colletti leads the team with a conference-high 15 appearances out of the bullpen while Ogg ranks second with 14. Colletti has a 2.74 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 23.0 innings of work.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein is slugging a team-best .477 and leads the squad with six doubles and 16 RBIs. He also ranks second on the team with 31 hits and is tied for the team lead with four home runs, ranks third on the team with a .290 batting average and a .356 on-base percentage and is tied for fourth on the squad with 12 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 11 bases in 12 attempts in 2017 to set a new career high.
Finkler is second on the team in runs scored (17) and is third in RBIs (14).
LOOKING TO FINISH STRONG
A four-year starter for the Bobcats, Black is looking to finish his career at Ohio at a high note. He currently ranks third on the squad with 29 hits, fourth with 13 RBIs and fifth with a .327 slugging percentage.
Rob Smith is in his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 99 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.
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 26 hits -- including five doubles, which ranks second on the team. He is also third on the team with 15 runs scored and is fifth in on-base percentage (.341).
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THEIR OPPORTUNITIES
Callery and Bredeson are both taking advantage of increased playing time for the Bobcats in 2017.
Callery has started 25 of the 26 games he's played in this year, ranking second on the team with a .291 batting average, tied for fourth with 12 runs scored and also ranking fifth with 25 hits. Bredeson has made 14 starts in 19 games played, ranking third on the team in slugging percentage (.391) and fourth in both batting average (.281) and on-base percentage (.352) while ranking fifth in RBIs (12).
SCOUTING CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Ohio is 2-7 against Central Michigan in the Smith era and is seeking its first series victory over the Chippewas since 2009. The Bobcats and the Chippewas squared off last season at The Wren, with Ohio dropping the series opener, 8-2, on May 6, posting a 5-4 win in 14 innings the following day and then losing a 13-inning affair, 13-11, on May 8.
Steve Jaksa has served as head coach of his alma mater since 2003 and has guided the Chippewas in MAC regular season titles in '04, '10 and '15.
Central Michigan opened league play by sweeping MAC East Division foe Miami last weekend at Theunissen Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich. The Chippewas took both games of the Saturday doubleheader by scores of 13-7 and 6-4, then clinched the series sweep with a 5-1 triumph in the Sunday finale. Central Michigan ran its winning streak to four in a row with a 9-7 triumph over in-state rival Oakland on Wednesday (April 5).
The Chippewas are one of the top offensive teams in the leauge, ranking first in runs (178) and triples (11), second in hits (284) and third in batting average (.293), slugging percentage (.388) and doubles (46).
Sophomore outfielder Daniel Robinson is hitting a team-best .331 with a team-high 41 hits -- including five doubles and two triples -- to go along with a team-high 28 runs scored and 23 RBIs, which is tied for second on the squad. Senior infielder/outfielder Alex Borglin is second on the squad with a .328 batting average and 38 hits -- including a team-high nine doubles and four triples -- and 26 runs scored. Junior outfielder Daniel Jipping leads Central Michigan with four home runs, is third on the team with a .308 batting average and 30 hits, ranks second with eight doubles and is tied for second with 23 RBIs. Sophomore infielder Jason Sulivan has driven in a team-high 25 runs.
Freshman southpaw Tyler Hankins has struck out a team-high 31 batters over a team-high 42.0 innings of work. Sophomore right-handers Pat Leatherman and Dazon Cole rank second and third on the squad with 30 strikeouts and 23 strikeouts, respectively. Junior righty Colton Bradley has made a team-high 11 appearances out of the bullpen for Central Michigan and leads the Chippewas with four saves.
Ohio will play its next six games away from Athens, starting with a pair of midweek road games next week. Ohio travels north to Niles, Ohio, to battle Youngstown State on Tuesday (April 11) in a 5 p.m. ET matchup at Eastwood Field, then makes the trek to Huntington, W. Va., the following day to square off against longtime rival Marshall in a 3 p.m. ET contest at Kennedy Center Field.