Ohio will head south in the spring to begin its season against some tough competition in the Carolina Classic.
The Bobcats will compete against Longwood, South Carolina, Charlotte and Presbyterian for five games in the next three days.
Longwood and South Carolina are both coming into this season after making the NCAA Tournament last season. Charlotte will provide stiff competition as well, after going 32-23 last season, and the 49ers enter this new season having all but one member of last year’s team returning.
Those teams will provide a challenge for Ohio because of their offenses. Longwood and South Carolina are known as big hitting teams, but Ohio saw them last year, so there is some familiarity that helped the Bobcats prepare.
Coach Jodi Hermanek’s solution to competing against two good offensive teams is to put Ohio's best offense out on the field.
“We have to go toe-to-toe and fight fire with fire with them,” Hermanek said of Longwood and South Carolina. “They are both big offenses, so we have to put our best offense out on the field.”
Helping the Bobcats to put a good offense out on the field will be the return of their top four leading hitters from last season in Taylor Saxton, Danielle Stiene, Mikayla Cooper and Jamie Wren, who all hit over .300 last season.
Cooper also provides the Bobcats with a dangerous power threat in the lineup after she led the team in home runs (11) and RBIs (39) last season.
Wren, who has fully recovered from an injury at the end of last season, will be the table setter at the top of the lineup. Sophomore Alex Day has forced herself into the lineup at third base and will bat second for the Bobcats.
“She has just done a 360 for us since last fall as a middle infielder freshman that didn’t see a lot of time," Hermanek said of Day.
Day entering the lineup caused lineup changes, Hermanek said.
Good pitching beats good hitting, and the Bobcats look to use their talent on the mound to help this weekend. Ohio not only expects good showings from the much touted Savannah Jo Dorsey and Stiene on the mound, but also from Desirae Villanueva.
“I think Des is one that is going to settle in nicely on the mound,” Hermanek said of her young freshman.
The Carolina Classic is just a start to the tough schedule Ohio has this season, but with the accolades surrounding the team, Hermanek thinks it’s time to elevate the schedule to help ready the program for the post season.
“It’s time for us to get 30-plus wins again against a stronger schedule and higher tier schedule," she said.
The first pitch of the new season will be at 10 a.m. Friday as the Bobcats take on Longwood.