Before Monday, the Bobcats weren’t supposed to host a true home game until Mar. 15.
This weekend’s tournament was supposed to take place in San Diego, California, but the forecast called for up to 1.5 inches of rain. Instead, the Bobcats will host this weekend’s tournament against Northern Illinois and Rutgers.
This weekend will mark the first time the Bobcats have played a home game before March since at least 2004, according to the Ohio Athletics website.
“We did not know till Monday,” coach Jodi Hermanek said. “We got an extra day of practice, so we lightened the load up a little bit and let (the Ohio players’) bodies rest.”
With that extra rest, the Bobcat underclassmen can focus on continuing their hot start. In five games last weekend, the younger Bobcats accounted for 18 of the team’s 29 hits.
Their top two hitters at the moment are sophomores MacKenzie Brunswick and Alex Day.
Foundational offensive players such as Mikayla Cooper, Madison Claytor and Taylor Saxton are bound to return to form. If the younger hitters can continue their hot start, opposing pitchers will be nervous for every at-bat this season.
While the offense may have been energized by newer faces, the pitching circle is still owned by Savannah Jo Dorsey, who picked up her 10th career Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Week award after a 3-0, 1.11 earned run average performance last weekend.
But like last weekend, the Bobcats will be playing several games in a short span. Ohio will play six games at Ohio Softball Field over the course of three days, so Hermanek may test her team's pitching depth again.
Dorsey and Danielle Stiene will be in the circle most of the time, but those early season tournaments are a good time to acquire some experience for other pitchers. Last weekend, Desirae Villanueva and Morgan Geno pitched a combined two and one-third innings against South Carolina. They allowed six earned runs, but earning some game action was the important part.
Normally, February is not the best time for outdoor sports in Ohio, but this weekend the Bobcats appear to be getting lucky. Temperatures are supposed to be near 60 degrees all weekend.
Despite the west coast weather, however, the 2,285-mile venue change was too much for UC Riverside and Washington to make the trip.
The Bobcats were scheduled to play Washington on Friday and University of California Riverside on Saturday. Washington in particular is a disappointing no-show. The Huskies are ranked eighth in the country, and would’ve been a nice early season test for Ohio.
“You want that opportunity,” Hermanek said. “But still, for the ... strength of schedule and RPI stance, we are still getting great competition.”
Northern Illinois and Rutgers rank 80th and 119th, respectively, in Ratings Percentage Index, which measures record and strength of schedule, but Washington was supposed to be the marquee opponent this weekend.
Washington or no Washington, the Bobcats need early season tournaments to prepare themselves for conference play and boost their resume for NCAA Regionals. They can’t control who can make the trip, but they can control their performance against the teams that do.