After a season of disappointment, the Ohio University Bobcats are back in the NCAA Tournament, having won the Mid-American Conference Tournament last weekend.
The Bobcats earned their automatic bid to the NCAA Championships by defeating Eastern Michigan in the MAC championship game. Ohio went into the MAC tournament as the No. 5 seed, but went 4-0 in the tournament, including two wins over No. 1 seeded Kent State, to win the conference championship and to keep its season alive.
The Bobcats are one of the hottest teams in baseball, as they have won nine of their last 10 games after playing most of the season with a .500 record. The Bobcats bring a mix of big batters, hot pitchers and excellent fielders looking to take down the Kentucky Wildcats in the Lexington Regional’s opening game.
UK will face Ohio’s toughest batter first as the Bobcats put arguably their best hitter in the leadoff position.
Senior outfielder Spencer Ibarra mans the leadoff spot and often delivers great results for the Bobcats. Ibarra leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, home runs and total bases. However, none of Ibarra’s stats rank in the top 50 of the nation’s best.
Usually batting behind Ibarra is Ty Black, who is currently on a 33-game streak of reaching base. DH/RHP Michael Klein often bats in the cleanup spot, where he has hit eight home runs on the season, third most on the team.
Klein could also have a big role on the mound, as he is expected to be the starting pitcher for Friday’s contest.
LHP Gerry Salisbury has made the most starts on the mound for the Bobcats, but recently pitched two innings in the MAC championship game after pitching 6 1/3 innings in the opening game of the MAC Tournament. Salisbury leads Ohio this season with 71 strikeouts.
However, with Salisbury likely being a no-go, the Bobcats are in good shape with Klein pitching. The redshirt junior RHP has the most wins on the team and leads the Bobcats in ERA.
The Bobcats also have one of the best closers in college baseball in Jake Roehn. Roehn has the second most saves in college baseball, and could be a problem for Kentucky if the Wildcats find themselves in a close game in the later innings.
Ohio’s biggest strength
The Bobcats have some strength on the mound, but it’s behind the mound where Ohio really has an advantage.
The Bobcats boast the nation’s 12th best fielding percentage at .980. Outfielder Tony Giannini is the only usual starter to maintain a perfect fielding percentage.
The Bobcats also don’t give opponents many second chances as they have allowed only 43 errors this season, 20 less than Kentucky.
When and where
Friday’s game between Ohio and Kentucky is set to start at noon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The winner of that game will move into the winners’ bracket of the double-elimination regional to face the winner of Indiana and North Carolina State.
All-session tickets covering all six or seven games range from $55 to $85 and are on sale now.
Single-session tickets, $10 or $15, go on sale Thursday at 9 a.m. Each game is one session, and the stadium will be cleared between games.
Chris Leach: 859-231-1326, @chrisleach250
NCAA Lexington Regional
Game 1: Kentucky (39-20) vs. Ohio (31-26), Noon (ESPNU)
Game 2: Indiana (33-22-2) vs. North Carolina State (34-23), 7 p.m. (WatchESPN.com)
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, Noon (Watch ESPN.com)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m. (WatchESPN.com)
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1 p.m. (Watch ESPN.com)
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 7 p.m. (WatchESPN.com)
Game 7: If necessary, same teams as in Game 6, 7 p.m. (WatchESPN.com)