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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (15-15) will play its next six games away from Athens, starting with a pair of midweek road games. The Bobcats travel north to Niles, Ohio, to battle Youngstown State (8-20) on Tuesday (April 11) in a 5 p.m. ET matchup at Eastwood Field, then make the trek to Huntington, W. Va., the following day to square off against longtime rival Marshall (15-15) in a 3 p.m. ET contest at Kennedy Center Field.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Tuesday: Ohio R-So. RHP #13 Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) vs. Youngstown State TBD | Live Stats
Wednesday: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. Marshall TBD | Gametracker
OHIO SWEPT BY CENTRAL MICHIGAN
After opening 2017 Mid-American Conference play with a three-game sweep at Ball State, Ohio suffered a sweep at the hands of West Division foe Central Michigan last weekend at Bob Wren Stadium. In a doubleheader on Saturday (April 8), the Bobcats fell to the Chippewas by scores of 6-2 in 12 innings and 10-8. Ohio dropped the Sunday (April 9) series finale to Central Michigan, 4-2.
Ohio will enter the third weekend of league play tied for fifth place with Buffalo in the overall conference standings at 3-3.
IBARRA OFF TO STRONG START
Through 30 games in 2017, senior outfielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.) leads the Bobcats with a .322 batting average, a .478 slugging percentage, a .389 on-base percentage, 37 hits and 21 runs scored, is tied for the team lead with four home runs and 11 walks, is tied for second on the squad with 15 RBIs, ranks second with a .476 slugging percentage and a .374 on-base percentage and is tied for third with four doubles. He leads the team with 10 multi-hit games.
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 0.985 team fielding percentage ranks fourth in the nation entering this week. The Bobcats have committed just 18 errors in 30 games.
STRENGTH IN ARMS
Ohio has established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats own a 3.59 ERA, which is the best in the league.
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. Redshirt junior righty Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) is 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA and is tied for the team lead with 39 strikeouts over 38.2 innings. He has given up just eight earned runs and 12 walks. Junior left-hander Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) sports a 4.40 ERA and a 4-1 record, fanning 31 over 43.0 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 3.20 ERA. He is tied with Klein for the team lead with 39 strikeouts in a team-high 45.0 innings on the mound.
Redshirt junior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) has made 14 appearances out of the bullpen, fanning 22 in 21.0 innings while allowing just three earned runs. He has tallied six of his 13 career saves in 2017, which puts him third on the program's all-time list. 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-hander Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.) owns a 0.82 ERA over eight appearances and 11.0 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 tied for third on the squad with 32 strikeouts over 22.1 innings of relief and owns a 2.82 ERA. Redshirt junior righty Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) has fanned 32 in 11 appearances and 23.1 innings. He sports a 1.93 ERA, and he is tied for third on the team in strikeouts. Senior southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) has made 14 relief appearances and sports a 1.98 ERA. Senior righty Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) leads the team with 17 appearances out of the bullpen while sophomore right-hander Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) ranks second with 15. Colletti has a 2.92 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 24.2 innings of work.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein leads the squad with 16 doubles, is tied for the team lead with four home runs and 11 walks, ranks second with a .450 slugging percentage and 34 hits, ranks third with a .283 batting average and fourth with a .353 on-base percentage and 15 runs scored. He enters this week's games having reached base safely in a team-high 11 straight games.
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 12 bases in 13 attempts in 2017 to set a new career high.
Finkler is second on the team in runs scored (18) and is tied for second in RBIs (15).
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 currently ranks third on the squad with 32 hits, is tied for second with 15 RBIs and ranks fifth in both batting average (.264) and slugging percentage (.331).
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 29 hits -- including seven doubles, which leads the team. He is also third on the team with 16 runs scored, fourth with a .336 slugging percentage and fifth with a .338 on-base percentage.
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 28 of the 29 games he's played in this year, ranking fourth on the team with a .273 batting average and fifth with 13 runs scored. Bredeson has made 16 starts in 22 games played, ranking second in batting average (.284) and third in both slugging percentage (.392) and on-base percentage (.354).
SCOUTING YOUNGSTOWN STATE
Ohio is 1-3 against Youngstown State in the Smith era. The Penguins came away with an 8-5 win on March 22, 2016, at Bob Wren Stadium in the last meeting between the two squads. Ohio's last visit to Youngstown State resulted in a 6-3 win on April 14, 2015.
Dan Bertolini is in his first season as head coach at Youngstown State. The Penguins were picked to finish seventh of seven teams in the 2017 Horizon League Preseason Poll.
Youngstown State posted an 11-6 win at Kent State last Tuesday (April 4), then dropped two of three games at home to Wright State. The Raiders came away with an 11-8 win the opener on Saturday, then split a Sunday doubleheader with the Penguins, recording a 16-4 win in the first game before Youngstown State took the finale, 5-2.
Junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick is batting a team-best .333 with a team-high 13 home runs and 31 RBIs. Senior infielder Nico Padovan has compiled a team-high 32 hits -- including a team-high six doubles.
Senior southpaw Joe King has thrown a team-high 32.1 innings and has logged three saves.
Ohio and Marshall were originally scheduled to meet on March 14 in Huntington. The Bobcats are 3-2 against the Thundering Herd in the Smith era. Ohio's last visit to Marshall resulted in a 4-1 win on March 9, 2016. Rott went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored.
Marshall is led by 11th-year head coach Jeff Waggoner. The Thundering Herd was picked to finish eighth of 12 teams in the 2017 Conference USA Preseason Coaches Poll.
Marshall played six games last week, going 3-2. The Thundering Herd dropped a 14-7 decision to in-state rival West Virginia on Tuesday, then bounced back with a 3-1 home win over Virginia Tech the following day. Marshall then traveled to Birmingham, Ala., where it took two of three games from UAB. After coming up short in a 4-3 contest last Friday (April 7), the Thundering Herd bounced back with a 2-1 win in 10 innings the following day, then took the weekend series with a 5-2 victory in the Sunday finale.
Junior infielder/right-handed pitcher Tyler Ratliff leads Marshall with 34 hits -- including a team-high 10 doubles and six home runs -- and has driven in a team-high 29 runs while scoring a team-high 21.
The Bobcats and the Thundering Herd will meet again next Tuesday (April 19) at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio, and on May 9 at The Wren.
Ohio visits Ypsilanti, Mich., this weekend for a three-game series with MAC West Division foe Eastern Michigan at Oestrike Stadium. The series begins with a 6 p.m. ET matchup on Friday (April 14). Game two is slated for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (April 15). The Sunday (April 16) series finale is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET start.