Smith Seeks Strong Start Against Murray State

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The second step in the rebuilding process for Coach Rob Smith and the Ohio baseball team begins on Sunday afternoon, as the Bobcats take the field for the first time in the 2014 season for a doubleheader against the Murray State Racers.

This marks the first time that Ohio and Murray State have ever played each other, as well as the season opener for both teams. The matchup came together at the last minute, after Ohio’s series with Western Carolina was canceled due to the poor weather conditions throughout North Carolina.

Murray State finished the 2013 season 21-33 overall, and 9-21 in the Ohio Valley Conference, which placed them in second-to-last place. The Racers excelled on their home field last season, winning 17 of the 30 games played at Reagan Field. However, they struggled mightily on the road, winning only three of their 21 games away from home.

The Racers boasted a solid offense last season, finishing with a team batting average of .284, which was the fifth-best in the OVC. But the Racers lost seven offensive starters to graduation, and will have plenty of holes to replace in 2014.

Of the three returning starters, outfielder Ty Stetson swings the most dangerous bat. Stetson, a senior, produced a .336 batting average, with a team-high 73 hits and a .444 on-base percentage in 2013, while also scoring a team-high 46 runs.

On the mound, the Racers return their entire starting rotation from 2013, led by senior Cameron Finch, who produced a 5-4 record with a 4.32 ERA in 13 starts. Finch also tossed the first nine-inning no-hitter in Murray State history, when he did so in a 1-0 victory over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville last season.

On the Ohio side, Sunday will be the first opportunity for Smith and the Ohio coaching staff to evaluate the young players that are stepping in into the holes left by the season-ending injuries to Cody Gaertner, Nate Squires, Nick Squires, and Brice Nikithser.

“It comes down to how fast the young guys get acclimated to Division I baseball,” Smith said. “And when the bullets start flying, how quickly can they get adjusted.”

The games will be played at Columbia State College in Columbia, Tenn., with the first game beginning at 1 p.m. The second game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

Projected Pitching Matchup (2013 stats)

Game 1: RHP Jake Miller (2-6, 4.91 ERA) vs. RHP Cameron Finch (5-4, 4.32 ERA)

Game 2: RHP Connor Sitz (2-7, 5.32 ERA) vs. RHP Cashtyn DeLeeuw (3-3, 5.32 ERA)