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Ohio's dugout brings out props and new cheers to try and get the energy back during its game against Northern Illinois on Feb. 2. (FILE)

Softball: A move to the leadoff spot has sparked Mikayla Cooper and Ohio

To open the season, Mikayla Cooper batted third for Ohio. She was expected to drive in runners on base at that spot.

She then was moved up to second in the order by coach Jodi Hermanek and finally to the leadoff spot after the team lost seven of eight games. 

Cooper is not the traditional leadoff hitter with blazing speed. She sees herself as a "spark plug" for the team to start off with a positive at-bat. It happened again Tuesday, as Cooper went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in a 6-1 win over Pitt at Ohio Softball Field.

Whether it's with a home run, of which she has the third-most in Ohio history, or reaching base another way — she's got the second-highest on-base percentage on the team this year — Cooper is making an impact from the leadoff spot.

When Cooper was inserted into the leadoff spot March 16 against James Madison the team was 9-11. They lost that first game, but have not lost since and have won six in a row, including a sweep of Central Michigan to begin Mid-American Conference play, including Tuesday's win over Pitt.

In each of the past four games she has home run after only hitting two in the first 20 games and is tied for the team lead with Alex Day at six.

It is not just home runs for Cooper as she has a batting average of .346 in the past seven games along with scoring six runs and driving in 10.

Being the first hitter to face the opposing pitcher can set the tone for the whole team about how the offense will perform.

“If I get a hit it's going to like trickle down to the rest of the offense,” Cooper said. 

That has happened for the Ohio offense. The whole team is locked in Hermanek said. Ohio averaged 3.9 runs per game for the first 20 games of the year, but in the last seven, the Bobcats are scoring six runs a game.

“I don't want to jinx it but she's definitely putting the ball where it needs to go at the right times each game now,” Hermanek said.

@TREricWalker

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