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Ohio pitcher Joe Rock pitches the ball during Ohio’s game against Morehead State on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Rock pitched a no hitter as Ohio won 6-0.

Baseball: Joe Rock's no-hitter was just the start

The cardinal rule of a no-hitter is not a single soul can mention it while it is still in progress, let alone think about it. Ohio left-hander Joe Rock knew this all too well while on the mound during Ohio’s first game in a doubleheader against Morehead State on Feb. 26.

Going into the seventh inning, Rock had allowed no hits and no runs to the Eagles. 

“I didn’t really want to think about it and jinx myself,” Rock said. 

Ohio would go on to mercy rule Morehead and win the game 6-0. In seven innings of work, Rock earned six strikeouts, gave up two walks and had no earned runs or hits. At the end of the night, Rock had pitched a complete game shutout and earned the third no-hitter of his combined high school and collegiate career.

Rock’s performance was one for the books, and Major League Baseball took note of that. The 6’6”, 200-pound hurler is ranked 56th on MLB’s top draft prospects and is the only Bobcat on the list. However, Rock isn’t fazed by the buzz. 

“It just makes me go out there and try to do my best and try to get my stock up as high as I can,” Rock said.

His draft grades are currently mid-range, and only a few off from the highest ranked left-handed pitcher, but Rock shows growth potential with a solid spring outing. His fastball is above average, graded at 60 on MLB’s 20-80 scale, but his slider and changeup are average at 55 and 50, respectively. 

His fastball has the highest grade of all lefties, but his control brings his overall grade down. There are 13 left-handers on the Top 100 Prospects list, and Rock is the seventh-highest ranked. 

If these numbers grow by the end of the season, the Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, native has the potential to surpass former Bobcat Dave Tobik as Ohio’s highest drafted pitcher. Tobik was drafted second overall by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the second phase of the 1975 January draft. This feat may be achievable as scouts look to see Rock break through to higher draft rounds with the rest of the season on the docket. 

Combining his fastball with his slider has been Rock’s go-to this season, but he also intermixes his changeup when needed. With the goal of dominating the hitters in mind, Rock works with mixing speeds and pitch placements to earn strikeouts and force ground balls. 

From his freshman season to now, his overall focus remains the same. Rock tries not to think too much and simply does what he knows on the mound. Although his mental approach is the same, Rock has changed his physical approach since first coming to Ohio.

“(The) summer my freshman year, I went to Boston to train with Eric Cressey, and I feel like that was a major turning point,” Rock said. “I also got really good playing in the Cape, too.”

The Cape Cod Baseball league is a summer league that features athletes from each NCAA division across the country. In this league, Rock was able to train with his peers and industry professionals to develop his skillsets early in his college career. 

“It’s been a major help because I’ve been surrounded by players that want to be there, and they know the game really well,” Rock said. “For them to give me knowledge, I give them knowledge — that really helps.”

Rock has picked up on a thing or two since then. Early into his junior season, Rock is showing promise to become the ace of Ohio’s staff. With that said, Rock continues to improve upon himself with each start. His 2-1 record is the best of the Bobcat pitchers.

His effectiveness relies in earning strikeouts. Rock has the highest strikeout total of the Bobcats this season with 30, and his opponent’s batting average against him sits at .150. In 18 innings, he has kept runs off the board, and his earned run average is a stunningly low 1.00.

The one thing that has kept Rock rolling through his starts has been consistency. This has created more opportunities for the team as a whole, and interim head coach Craig Moore recognizes these achievements in that aspect. 

“Coming into the season, we thought our pitching and our defense were going to be our two mainstays as far as being consistent day in and day out, game to game,” Moore said. 

Defensively, Rock has been solid for the Bobcats. He has only allowed nine hits and three runs, two of which were earned runs. What really stands out is his strikeout per nine innings ratio, which is at 15. The next closest Bobcat is junior right-hander Braxton Kelly, who averages 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings. 

It’s not just the MLB and coaches taking note of what Rock can do. The Mid-American Conference joined the conversation by giving the southpaw the Pitcher of the Week award for the week of March 2. But once again, Rock does not feel any pressure from the attention his way. His main focus is getting locked in for his next starts and getting ready for MAC play.

“I feel like we’re still figuring some things out,” Rock said. “So once MAC play hits, I think we should have hitters on track and pitchers all together. Once we bring those two things together, I feel like we’re (going to) be pretty solid.”

As for coach Moore, he knows Rock is capable of making a statement across the league. Confident that his pitching staff is one of the best, Moore, like Rock, does not fear the games and hurdles ahead. 


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