Mikayla Cooper launched a fly ball to right field. The ball flew over the fence for a leadoff home run. It was the second leadoff home run of the day for Cooper.
In Ohio’s doubleheader sweep of Central Michigan Friday at Ohio Softball Field, Cooper, a senior, started the bottom of the first with a home run both games.
Coming into the weekend, Ohio had trailed in 18 games. The Bobcats only trailed once in their three games against the Chippewas, and in that game, the Bobcats had a three-run lead after the first inning.
Getting out to earlier starts has been a focus for the Bobcats.
This weekend? Goal accomplished.
“We’ve been challenging ourselves in our pre-conference games to get on the board first and not be the comeback kids,” coach Jodi Hermanek said.
Cooper’s home runs were a way to avoid that.
“I feel that I set the tone with my pace,” Cooper said. “It’s just going to keep the hits flowing.”
But past Cooper, more of Ohio’s offense helped get the scoring started early.
After Cooper’s first leadoff home run, Alex Day reached second on an error. Freshman Katie Yun followed up that with triple, and Natalie Alvarez scored Yun with a double to the left-center field gap.
Just like that, the Bobcats had an early three-run lead. They won the game 4-3.
Day followed Cooper’s Game 2 leadoff home run with a home run of her own. Ohio scored four first inning runs from singles by Desirae Villanueva and Allie Englant. Ohio won that game 8-5.
Even though the Bobcats had gone down a run in the top half of the inning, the deficit was erased quickly.
In Game 3, Alvarez scored Cooper on a long single that bounced off the left-center field wall to get the scoring going for Ohio. Michaela Dorsey scored Alvarez on a double to cushion the lead.
The Bobcats went on to win this game 5-1.
Getting out to early leads takes some pressure off the Bobcats, which they had early in the season — in the 18 games where they trailed.
Even with all the early offensive production, getting out to early leads is just as much on the pitching and defense as it is on the hitting.
Freshman Madi McCrady worked out of a runner on third, one out jam in the first inning of the first game. In Game 3, she struck out the side in the first inning.
It took Central Michigan a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly to get a first-inning run in the only game of the three that it scored in the first inning.
Early leads could mean easier games for Ohio. And with conference play starting, that could be huge.
“Opening the door to conference in a good way is one thing,” Hermanek said. “Opening it in the first inning is even bigger.”