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Dakota Pyles gets tagged out on the first base line early in The Bobcat's Sunday Afternoon game March 22, 2015. 

Strong pitching leads Ohio to weekend sweep over Niagara

After losing six straight, solid pitching helps the Bobcats with a weekend sweep over Niagara.

When the star ace of the pitching staff goes down with an injury, the effect will be felt throughout the entire rotation.

That is what happened to the Bobcats’ junior Savannah Jo Dorsey, who led the team in all pitching categories last season.

Ohio has no doubt struggled early on this season with pitching being one of the biggest weaknesses. Through the first 23 games, no pitcher, excluding Dorsey, who hasn’t pitched since Feb. 7, had an ERA under five.

This weekend’s series against Niagara was more than just the home opener and a chance to snap a six game losing streak for Ohio. This series was also a chance for the Bobcats (7-18) to regain some confidence that was muted from a less-than-desirable start of a season.

Not only did Ohio sweep Niagara in the two game series by finals of 7-1 and 5-1, the pitching performances from Kaylin Clarke and Mikayla Cooper were the main highlights.

For a pitching staff that has been plagued with an earned run epidemic, neither pitcher allowed another run to be added to their total. Both of the runs Niagara (0-16) produced did not come at the fault of Clarke of Cooper.

Clarke, a senior, has struggled in her previous starts holding a resume of 51 earned runs and an opponent batting average of over .300. On Saturday, though, she pitched the best she has all season.

Clarke pitched all seven with four strikeouts and only allowed one walk.

“Even though with the losses we’ve been staying positive,” Clarke said. “Turning the corner is great and I’m proud of everybody.”

Clarke now leads the team in innings pitched and holds the second-highest team batting average at .328.

The weekend’s second game on Sunday was led by a mirrored pitching outing from Saturday by Mikayla Cooper, a freshman.

Although Cooper’s body of work is small because of her lack of innings pitched, she showed spectators she is capable of being a strong presence on the mound. In six innings, she allowed four hits with four strikeouts. Cooper walked three batters, but Ohio’s defense kept most of those runners from crossing the plate.

“I thought I held (Niagara) pretty well,” Cooper said. “My changeup was keeping them on their toes.”

Cooper, whose main occupation on the field is not pitcher, said she hadn’t pitched six innings since high school. Her stats on the season have improved with her ERA now being 3.60 and her opponent batting average dropped 50 points to .250.

Coach Jodi Hermanek said that the Bobcats are going to rely more on Cooper in the future, which is why she got the start on Sunday.

The Bobcats can walk away from this series with their heads held high as they enter Mid-American Conference play against Northern Illinois on March 27.

“I’m really proud of them,” Hermanek said. “We’ve had some things we’ve been working to correct and I’m just really proud of them.”



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