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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team (16-16, 3-3 MAC) visits Ypsilanti, Mich., this weekend for a three-game series with Mid-American Conference West Division foe Eastern Michigan (13-20, 4-2 MAC) 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.
'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: Ohio R-Jr. LHP #8 Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) vs. Eastern Michigan Sr. RHP #38 Sam Delaplane | SIDEARM Stats
Saturday: Ohio R-Jr. RHP #27 Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) vs. Eastern Michigan Jr. RHP #21 Brad Allen | SIDEARM Stats
Sunday: Ohio Jr. LHP #11 Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio) vs. Eastern Michigan Jr. RHP #9 Brent Mattson | SIDEARM Stats
BOBCATS SPLIT MIDWEEK GAMES
Ohio opened a six-game swing away from Athens by splitting a pair of midweek contests this week.
Senior shortstop Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) lifted Ohio to a 6-5 win over host Youngstown State with a squeeze bunt in the top of the eighth inning on Tuesday (April 11) at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio. The Bobcats broke a five-all deadlock in the top half of the eighth thanks to Finkler's bunt. Redshirt junior right-hander Cory Blessing (Mayfield, Ohio) tossed a scoreless home half of the eighth, then redshirt junior right-handed closer Jake Roehn (Sandwich, Ill.) came on in the ninth and struck out two in a scoreless frame to nail down the win and pick up his MAC-high seventh save, matching his career high and bringing his career saves total to 14, which ranks as the third-most in program history.
On Wednesday (April 12), senior center fielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.), senior second baseman Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio) and sophomore first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) all homered, but Ohio could not protect an early lead and fell to longtime rival Marshall, 12-9, at Kennedy Center Field in Huntington, W. Va.
OHIO SWEPT BY CENTRAL MICHIGAN
After opening 2017 MAC 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 32 games in 2017, Ibarra leads the Bobcats with a .320 batting average, a .504 slugging percentage, a .387 on-base percentage, 40 hits, five home runs, 20 RBIs and 21 runs scored, is tied for second on the squad with six doubles and ranks third on the team with 11 walks. He leads the team with 11 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 0.983 team fielding percentage ranks eighth in the nation entering this weekend's series at Eastern Michigan. The Bobcats have committed just 21 errors in 32 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 also leads the MAC in his allowed per nine innings (7.92) and ranks second in walks allowed per nine innings (4.12) and third in strikeouts per nine innings (8.3).
Ohio's pitching staff has recorded four shutout victories in 32 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 4.20 ERA and a 4-1 record, fanning 45 over a team-high 45.0 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 and tied with Baird for the team lead with 45.0 innings on the mound.
Roehn has made 15 appearances out of the bullpen, fanning 24 in 22.0 innings while allowing just three earned runs. 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 0.68 ERA over nine appearances and 13.1 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 32 strikeouts over 24.1 innings of relief and owns a 1.85 ERA. Blessing has fanned 33 in 12 appearances and 23.1 innings. He sports a 1.85 ERA, and he is fourth on the team in strikeouts. Senior southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) has made 15 relief appearances and sports a 3.52 ERA. Senior righty Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) leads the team with a MAC-high 18 appearances out of the bullpen while sophomore right-hander Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.) ranks second with 16. Colletti has a 2.70 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 26.2 innings of work.
KLEIN DOES IT ALL
In addition to serving as the No. 3 pitcher in Ohio's weekend rotation, Klein ranks second on the team in slugging percentage (.442), hits (37) and home runs (4), is tied for second in doubles (6), ranks third in batting average (.287) and runs batted in (17), is tied for third in runs scored (18) and ranks fourth in on-base percentage (.357).
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
Finkler has stolen 12 bases in 13 attempts in 2017 to set a new career high.
Finkler is second on the team in runs scored (20) and is tied for fourth in RBIs (16).
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 second on the squad with 18 RBIs, third with 35 hits and fifth in both batting average (.294) and slugging percentage (.354).
Rob Smith is in his fifth season at the helm of the Bobcats. Ohio won 23 games during 2016 season. Smith has won 100 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 32 hits -- including seven doubles, which leads the team. He is also tied for third on the team with 18 runs scored, tied for fourth with 16 RBIs and ranks fourth in slugging percentage (.363) and fifth in on-base percentage (.349).
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 30 of the 31 games he's played in this year, ranking fourth on the team with a .284 batting average and fifth with 31 hits and 14 runs scored. Bredeson has made 17 starts in 24 games played, ranking second in batting average (.295) and third in both slugging percentage (.410) and on-base percentage (.360).
SCOUTING EASTERN MICHIGAN
Ohio visits Ypsilanti for the first time since 2015 (May 8-10) -- the last time the Bobcats faced off against the Eagles. The Bobcats earned a series sweep with wins of 5-0, 10-3 and 10-2.
Eastern Michigan took on a pair of Big Ten Conference opponents on the road in midweek action. The Eagles dropped a tough 2-1 decision in 13 innings to No. 13-ranked Michigan on Tuesday in Ann Arbor but bounced back with a 3-1 triumph over Ohio State in Columbus on Wednesday.
Senior infielder John Montgomery owns a team-best .289 batting average and leads Eastern Michigan with 35 hits -- including a team-high five home runs -- and has driven in a team-high 24 runs.
On the mound, senior right-handed pitcher Sam Delaplane has tallied a team-high 39 strikeouts for the Eagles. Junior righty Brad Allen has tossed a team-high 44.1 frames for Eastern Michigan, fanning 33. Senior right-hander Matthew Beaton has logged three saves.
Ohio wraps up its current stretch of games away from Athens by taking on longtime rival Marshall in a neutral-site meeting next Wednesday (April 19) at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. ET.