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Freshman softball player Mikayla Cooper poses for a portrait at the Ohio Softball Field on April 1. Cooper normally plays shortstop, but has filled in as pitcher for the past several weeks. 

Ohio freshman welcomes new opportunity

Freshman Mikayla Cooper has been moved inside the circle after injuries have plagued the Bobcats.

 

Heading into the season, Ohio’s pitching rotation was loaded with talented upperclassman.

However, the best of the bunch, junior Savannah Jo Dorsey, suffered an injury after starting a pair of games during Ohio’s opening weekend and hasn’t been medically cleared since.

Having vacant spots to fill, coach Jodi Hermanek rummaged through her roster to seek a solution to help guide her team back to its form from the previous season.

Mikayla Cooper, a freshman from Delaware, Ohio, was originally recruited as a shortstop. But on request from Hermanek, Cooper has found herself performing duties on the field that span the entire diamond. Through 25 games played this season, she has played catcher, infielder and pitcher.

Cooper wasn’t anticipating being a utility player during her freshman season, but Hermanek said she is handling her new role well.

“I think she does it with a great positive attitude,” Hermanek said. “She just has natural talent and is competitive in nature.”

Although Cooper has found herself behind the plate, her versatility will be used primarily from the opposite end on the mound.

After playing through half the season, Cooper smiled as she elaborated on her first season at Ohio (9-18) so far.

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“Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be starting three different positions,” Cooper said. “I thought ‘Oh, I’ll be playing middle infield,’ and Herm comes to me and drops the ball saying that she’ll need me to pitch.

“I did not see that coming at all.”

But she struggled during her first several trips in the circle. After pitching five innings spread out over four games, Cooper had a 7.41 ERA. When Niagara visited Athens two weekends ago, however, Cooper looked comfortable in the circle.

During the second game of a doubleheader, Cooper tossed her longest outing of the season in six innings of relief, while striking out four and not allowing an earned run.

Her performance, along with offensive support from her teammates, helped Ohio sweep the Purple Eagles for the second victory of its current four-game winning streak.

Her 3.60 ERA is currently the second-lowest on the team, and Hermanek expects it to continue to drop.

“She still has a long way to go, which is more fascinating about the future she has for herself,” Hermanek said.

Praise for Cooper’s ability and willingness to pitch does not come only from Hermanek, but also from her teammates.

“She’s an all around utility player,” said senior pitcher Lauren McClary. “And she’ll do it with a hundred percent. … (She) is an all-around athlete.”

Cooper’s offensive numbers only further support her team’s claim of her being an all-around athlete. After 24 games played, she has a .286 batting average, which ranks fifth in the Bobcats’ lineup. Her power is also showing as she leads Ohio with four homeruns.

The emergence of Cooper in the circle and at the plate has helped Ohio, a team that started 5-18, find its identity as a team heading into the second weekend of MAC play undefeated in conference play.

“We are capable of beating every team in this conference,” Cooper said. “If we can hang with Kentucky then we can hang with any team in the MAC.”

@jordanbrandall

jr096012@ohio.edu

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