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Ohio's Katie Yun runs to first during Ohio's game against Pittsburgh on March 27. The Bobcats beat the Panthers 6-1. (FILE)

Softball: Ohio heads to Northern Illinois riding record start to conference play

It’s been a historic start to Mid-American Conference play for Ohio.

No team in program history has swept the first two series of conference play. Now, everything is working for the Bobcats — they’re on a nine-game winning streak. 

The streak will be put on the line as Ohio (18-12, 6-0 MAC) heads to Northern Illinois to take a Huskies team that is finding its stride in conference play.

Ohio has had a balanced hitting attack with at least seven hits and four runs in each conference game.

“I’m really proud of our lineup right now," head coach Jodi Hermanek said. "I’m really confident in the way it looks and the production we’re getting."

Leading the lineup for the Bobcats has been Mikayla Cooper with a hit and an RBI in every conference game so far. She also has four home runs. 

Seven Bobcats are batting over .290 in the MAC. The team is making consistent contact too, with only 14 combined strikeouts.

Ohio has has all week to prepare for the three-game series against Northern Illinois (13-20, 4-2 MAC). The doubleheader Tuesday against Kent State was cancelled due to rain. 

Every facet of the game is locked in for Ohio. The Bobcats have allowed three runs or less in seven of those games.

The pitching tandem of Danielle Stiene and Madi McCrady has been a key part of the Bobcats streak with 37 strikeouts in conference games. 

The high number of strikeouts could continue this weekend; Northern Illinois hitters have the second-most strikeouts in the conference.

As the schedule turned to conference play, the performances improved for the Huskies. The pitching staff has been the main difference. Tara Thacker is the ace and has a 1.83 ERA in four MAC starts and a 3.86 ERA for the season.

Offensively, Northern Illinois is finding success in threes. Jenny Van Geertry, Sam Schmidt and Alaynie Woddard are the only ones batting above .300 in the lineup. Triples have been an integral part of the hitting. The Huskies have 15 on the season, the team has 16 home runs.

There are only three other hitters batting above .250 for the season, but the Huskies are stringing together their hits to score runs the team needs to win. The Huskies are 8-1 when scoring at least six runs.

The Bobcat catchers will have to be prepared for Huskies to steal bases. They're tied for second in the conference with 33 while also having the second highest number of times caught stealing. 

The series has been pushed back a day to begin Saturday and end on Sunday due to cold temperatures for Friday.


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