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Junior Jenna Giusti sprints to first base after her hit in the Bobcat's 11-3 win against Buffalo May 5 at the Ohio Softball Field. The Bobcats will face either Toledo or Western Michigan in the first game of the Mid-American Conference tournament on Wednesday in Akron. (KATHARINE EGLI | Picture Editor Photography)

Softball: Bye could be key for 'Cats at MAC tourney

Ohio achieved one of the goals coach Jodi Hermanek set forth at the beginning of the season, which was to get a top-four seed and a first-round bye in the Mid-American-Conference Tournament.

Now, the Bobcats need to put that goal to good use in order to make it back to the conference title game.

The Bobcats will take on the winner of Toledo’s game against Western Michigan Wednesday to open its play in the MAC Tournament. The Rockets and Broncos will square off at 11 a.m. with the Bobcats in attendance to scout their competition. Ohio will face the winner at 5 p.m.

Regardless of what team the Bobcats play, Ohio needs to bring the aggressiveness and team play that resulted in the team’s successful regular season, Hermanek said. The rest, until Wednesday, will help the team rather than counteract its recent hot streak.

“I think this is a great start going into MAC,” junior outfielder Chelsea Hortman said. “We got the four-seed taken away from Kent, so I think only good things can come from here.” 

The Broncos are third in the MAC in pitching with a team ERA of 2.67 and second in strikeouts with 324 on the season. Western Michigan also finished second in the conference in team fielding. 

Toledo, which qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1997, is in the middle of the pack in terms of team batting average and below average from the pitcher’s circle. The Rockets have won more games this season than its previous three combined.

Hermanek noted that both teams are drastically different than when Ohio played them in April.

The Bobcats will be playing at Firestone Stadium, home to the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league. Ohio assistant coach Sharonda McDonald plays for the team along with her coaching duties. 

The field is about the same size as the Ohio Softball Field.

Hermanek said that placing among the top four teams in the conference provides an easier route to a tournament championship.

“I think that we’re at a good part of our game right now,” Hermanek said. “We finally know what it is to be consistent, so it’s a great step for us to go into the conference tournament on that note.”

The Bobcats advanced all the way to the MAC Tournament final last season before falling to Western Michigan.

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