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Softball coach Jodi Hermanek speaks to an umpire during the 2008 season. The Bobcats have posted a winning record in conference play in each of the past three seasons. (Amanda Steen | File Photo)

Softball: Coach demands academic rigor, structure

For the Ohio softball team, success in the classroom is a requirement, not an option. Off the field, coach Jodi Hermanek makes sure her players are always on top of their game.

She makes sure her players perform at the highest levels on the field, too. She finished her fourth year coaching by winning the Mid-American Conference East Division last spring.

“(OU) has been an awesome environment to come into,” Hermanek said. “The more you are here, the more you get to know your campus, the atmosphere and the community atmosphere. All of those things are very important when recruiting.”

With four years of recruiting under her belt, Hermanek said she had to work hard to find players to replace the five graduated starters, but she had few problems finding her six incoming freshmen.

She cited the team’s strong academics as a selling point for many potential players, who are as focused on bringing their talent to the classroom as the field.

Last year’s team had a 3.37 cumulative grade-point average.

Emily Wethington, Melissa Bonner and Jillian Van Wagnen received Academic All-MAC honors. Six other players earned Academic All-MAC Honorable Mentions, causing OU to tie with Bowling Green for the most academically-successful softball team in the MAC.

Sophomore Alex Basquez said the team’s rigid academic structure was a reason the players posted high marks in the classroom.

“Off the field, for incoming freshman, we have an eight-hour requirement to study a week,” she said, adding that if any upperclassman has a GPA under 3.0, she also has to participate in study tables.

“(Hermanek) really, really strives for academics,” Basquez said. “If we are even struggling a little bit, she will make us get a tutor. … She is very ahead of the game with our grades. She does class checks to make sure that you are going to class, and we have to have our phones turned off in class.”

The team has recorded an NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 987 the last two school years. The score is a four-year average based on academic eligibility and retention. A perfect score is 1,000.

But academic success is not the crutch in Hermanek’s recruiting strategy. The team has had some success on the field during her four years as coach, posting a winning record in MAC play the last three seasons despite going 97-105 during the first four years of Hermanek’s tenure.

“We have been able to take our program a step further every single year we have been here, and we have been able to do it on a recruiting edge,” she said. “We maintained that in the classroom with our academic standards, and we are able to do that on the diamond by winning more and more conference games every year and upping our RPI.”

Hermanek said her team has been able to improve offensively every year; Wethington and Bonner were included in the top 10 of almost every offensive category in the conference.

Last year, Ohio set a program record with 35 home runs.

Wethington led the pack with seven home runs last season and holds Ohio’s career record with 27. But she was a senior and Ohio will have to find a new player to lead from the plate and in the pitching circle.

“It has been really exciting to learn about the tradition that has gone on here, and being able to find athletes that really like the campus atmosphere and really appreciate the tradition that Ohio softball has,” Hermanek said.

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