The third year of the Kenzie Roark era for Ohio Softball begins Feb. 12. But before the Bobcats take on UConn in the Kickin’ Chicken Classic on Friday at 11 a.m., let’s take a look at the Bobcats’ chances in 2021. 

Here is the 2021 Softball preview.  

2020 recap 

Ohio had a disappointing 2020 season. The Bobcats were 11-15 before Mid-American Conference play was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To the Bobcats credit, it’s hard to get off to a dominant start when your first 26 games are on the road.  

Ohio has a history of being competitive in conference play. In 2019, the Bobcats entered the MAC Tournament as a three seed and made it to the championship before falling to Toledo. This season, however, the Bobcats will have to run the conference if it wants any chance of making the NCAA Tournament. 

The MAC announced that it would not hold a conference tournament last May and will only recognize its regular season champion. Despite the storied history of the tournament, the MAC feels like the regular season champion is the best representative of the conference. Ohio will have to beat some tough teams to make it to the NCAA Tournament and claim its first MAC title since 2018. 

Key Returners

The Bobcats will have a large talent pool to work with this season thanks to the many experienced faces that they’ll have in the field. 

Last season, shortstop Katie Yun led the team in RBIs (24) and home runs (5). But she’s way more than just a slugger. Her .367 batting average and 12-game hitting streak to open last season proves that she’s one of Ohio’s best players at the plate. Expect her to be a driving force for Ohio’s offense. 

Allie Englant is back for her senior year and that’s great news for Ohio. Englant leads the team in batting average (.405) and stole 14 bases. 2021 will prove to be one of the strangest for any Ohio team, but Englant’s experience could prove vital. 

Leading Ohio’s pitching staff is senior Madi McCrady. McCrady was 6-5 in her appearances in the circle last season. When the season was canceled, McCrady had struck out 34 batters and had a 4.70 ERA. 

New Faces 

Ohio has eight freshmen joining the team, but with the experience the Bobcats have it’s unknown how much time on the field they’ll get. One newcomer could have an instant impact on the Bobcats’ roster. 

Mikenzie Vaughn, a graduate transfer from Florida Gulf Coast,  batted .308 with 20 hits, 11 RBIs and three home runs. Vaughn, an infielder, spent most of her time at third base last season but she’s shown the ability to make a presence at DP. 

2021 Schedule 

When the full 2021 schedule was released last week, several marquee matchups stood out. From Feb.12-14, Ohio will play UConn, Tennessee and Coastal Carolina. Tennessee made it all the way to the Gainesville Super Regional Final in 2019. Ohio split its two game series with Coastal Carolina last season, losing the first game 8-3 but then winning the second meeting 13-5 in five innings. 

It’ll be a tough three days for Ohio, but it’s important that Ohio leaves Conway, South Carolina with some positivity. The Bobcats started last season with a seven-game losing streak. If Ohio can make it through non-conference play with a decent record, it’ll set the Bobcats up nicely for conference play. 

Speaking of MAC play, Ohio kicks off its hunt for a conference title on March 19 at home against Northern Illinois. Ohio’s long awaited rematch against Toledo comes on April 9-11 in Toledo. 

It’s been a wild year for the softball team. Despite a disappointing start to the season, Ohio never got a chance to make up for it. Now comes that chance. 

@JL_Kirven 

jk810916@ohio.edu