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Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics
Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics

Ohio Picked to Finish Third in MAC East Division

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Spring is almost here, meaning that the return of baseball is right around the corner. Ohio Baseball will step on a diamond for the first time in 2017 on Friday in South Carolina and will do so as the third-ranked team in the Mid-American Conference East Division.

Third in the MAC East is where the Bobcats were placed in the annual MAC Baseball Preseason Poll released Thursday with 44 points. The league’s 11 coaches determine the rankings.

Ahead of Ohio in the East are Kent State, the team also picked to win the MAC Tournament, with 61 points and Miami with 56. In the West Division, Ball State is the favorite followed by Central Michigan with 57 and 49 points, respectively, meaning Ohio is the fifth-ranked team overall in the conference based on points. Ohio, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan were the only teams that did not receive a vote to win the MAC Tournament.

In 2016, the Bobcats finished 23-29 and missed the MAC Tournament.

The Bobcats take on La Salle in their first game of 2017 on Friday. On Saturday Ohio has a double-header against La Salle and Butler and will wrap up opening weekend with another game against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Ohio will be going into this season with a revamped pitching staff anchored by the bullpen but an inexperienced lineup with a lot of new faces.

Redshirt senior Jake Rudnicki, who started 14 games for the Bobcats last year, will be working out of the bullpen alongside senior Tom Colletti and redshirt junior Jake Roehn, giving Ohio one of the deepest and most dangerous group of relievers in the conference. Roehn had seven saves and 43 strikeouts last season as Ohio’s closer. As a starter, Rudnicki led Ohio in wins with five and struck out 76 batters in 75.2 innings.

The returning starter with the most experience for Ohio will be redshirt junior Michael Klein, who started six games for Ohio last year.

Of the six position players who played more than 50 games for Ohio last season, four of them are gone, including the teams leaders in batting average, hits, walks, home runs, RBI and stolen bases.

Senior Ty Black and sophomore Rudy Rott are back though and will anchor the Ohio lineup. In his freshman season, Rott hit .319/.406/.426 with three home runs and 39 RBI. Black hit .261/.338/.300 with one homer and 21 RBI.

The first pitch of the season is scheduled for 5 p.m. against La Salle in Lexington, S.C. on Friday, Feb. 17. Below are the full MAC Baseball Preseason Poll results.

2017 MAC Baseball Preseason Poll
East Division Preseason Poll (1st place votes)
1.       Kent State (9) – 61 points
2.       Miami (1) – 56 points
3.       Ohio – 44 points
4.       Bowling Green (1) – 32 points
5.       Buffalo – 27 points

West Division Preseason Poll (1st place votes)
1.       Ball State (5) – 57 points
2.       Central Michigan (2) – 49 points
3.       Toledo (1) – 36 points
4.       Northern Illinois (2) – 32 points
5.       Western Michigan (1) – 31 points
6.       Eastern Michigan – 26 points

MAC Tournament Champion: Kent State (4), Ball State (1), Central Michigan (1), Eastern Michigan (1), Miami (1), NIU (1), Toledo (1), Western Michigan (1)