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Ohio's Danielle Stiene pitches during a game against Akron at the Ohio University Women's Softball Complex on April 16. (FILE)

Softball: Ohio prepares for preseason play

Although the Bobcats finished with a winning season last year, a Mid-American Conference Championship loss to Miami still haunts coach Jodi Hermanek as a new season approaches.

“We still have that bitter taste in our mouth,” she said. 

Hermanek said they can use the loss as motivation or to “light the fire” for this season.

The loss to Miami ended Ohio's season at 37-23. 

For the 2016-17 season, Ohio has a roster loaded with experience. Despite losing three seniors — Sloane Walker, Amanda Dalton and Samantha Bowlsbey — the team plans to focus less on rebuilding and more on honing the talent of returning players.

Freshman talent is sure to be a huge factor for the Bobcats, with pitcher Desirae Villanueva expected to stand out. 

“We’re excited to see her on the mound for the Bobcats, and the competitive contribution she's going to make.” Hermanek said of the freshman from Canada.

Along with the freshmen, there are 15 returning players for the Bobcats. Sophomore infielder Mackenzie Brunswick is among this group, and she is looking to make the next step. Dalton’s injury last season gave Brunswick an opportunity to gain some extra playing time at shortstop and prove herself as an elite player. 

“When (Dalton) was injured, Mackenzie really stepped up in that position last year,” Hermanek said. “She got a little experience last year, so I’m excited.”

Hermanek also mentioned sophomore outfielder Deanna Cole as a potential team leader. She recorded 53 hits and four doubles last season.

"(She) just brushed the surface on her talents,” Hermanek said. 

Hermanek pointed out that the talent does not stop there, however, and there is still plenty of room for everyone else to take a leadership role.

Ohio held their first full-team practice Monday, and will kick off their preseason play this weekend, but team-bonding has already been going on for a while.

She pointed out the importance of the team getting to know each other in ways that are different than playing and practicing together. 

“We spent the last couple weekends doing our yearly Bobcat bonding weekend,” Hermanek said. “We really focus on those weekends so we can get to know more about each other outside the uniform, and mold together as a unit."

The Bobcats will travel to Columbus on Saturday to play Otterbein and Northern Kentucky in the Ohio State Charity Classic.

“I’m looking forward to watching our athletes play –– getting out there and competing,” she said. “With a veteran roster, they’ll be able to figure out how to smooth out those rough patches and iron things out.”

One thing the Bobcats are anticipating this season is a tough schedule against some big programs, but that doesn’t intimidate them. 

“Building off of last year’s success, traveling and playing at some large facilities against high-profile teams will help us prepare for the pressure of the game moreso than anything,” Hermanek said.

She said the team's mentality can make the difference between having a successful season, and having an unsuccessful one.

The Bobcats will need to “mentally persevere” this weekend as they play their doubleheader Saturday, and then head back to Athens on Sunday to play a doubleheader against Saint Francis (Pa.).


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