After playing in the NCAA tournament last season, Ohio and Kentucky will play a three-game series this weekend.
Prior to last season, Ohio and Kentucky did not have what most would call a rivalry.
Maybe the teams still don’t have a rivalry, but Ohio is looking to make a statement during the three-game series this weekend in Lexington, Kentucky.
The 2014 campaign for Ohio was one coach Jodi Hermanek and company look upon fondly. The list of accolades include an ace performance from then-sophomore Savannah Jo Dorsey, winning the Mid-American Conference postseason tournament and earning a bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they did not last long in the tournament and lost to Kentucky in the first round.
It wasn’t just a loss, though, it was a hard-fought loss.
Ohio lost to the Wildcats 2-0 with both sides showing strong pitching performances. Dorsey went six innings and allowed two earned runs and Kentucky’s Kelsey Nunley went seven and struck out nine.
Now, in 2015, Ohio (5-12) is off to a slower start, while Kentucky (15-5) is performing up to its Southeastern Conference standards. The Bobcats are also without Dorsey, who hasn’t pitched since Feb. 7.
Nunley, a junior, finished last year with a 1.88 overall ERA and a 0.49 ERA in the NCAA Tournament, which the Bobcats experienced.
In 2015, Nunley is off to another strong start with of 2.08 and has 50 strikeouts.
“She throws to both sides of the plate really well,” Hermanek said. “We can focus on the side that we want and attack it.
“We need to have that attack mentality.”
That attack mentality could bode well for the Bobcats as this season, so far, has not been what they expected. The pitching staff and the offense has shown positive signs, but the struggle for Ohio is getting both to show those positive signs at the same time.
Another negative aspect that has plagued the Bobcats this season is injuries. Ohio has a total of four starters that cannot play due to some kind of ailment, which Hermanek says is a “huge deficit for any team.”
A positive for Ohio is some players are now getting more playing time because of the injuries.
Mikayla Cooper, a freshman, has appeared in all 17 games this season. Upon having played in every game, she also is showing quality offensive production. Cooper holds a .310 batting average and leads the team with four home runs.
Cooper has also appeared on the pitching mound for Ohio, but her ERA is 11.45 in three innings.
Hermanek said that there are several things to take into account when observing the struggles of the younger players, such as the difficulty of the schedule and they haven’t received enough playing time to adjust to Division I competition.
“It’s about them settling and getting comfortable,” Hermanek said.