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Ohio University pitcher Mackenzie Kohl pitches the ball to Ohio State at Ohio Softball Field in Athens, Ohio, on March 22, 2022.

Softball: Ohio defense serves as bright spot in 6-1 loss to Ohio State

Ohio’s second home game of the season, a 6-1 loss to Ohio State, may not have gone as well as its first game at Ohio Softball Field, but there was one thing that kept Ohio in contention for most of the night. Its defense.

Ohio State had numerous scoring chances in the early innings, but thanks to some smart plays by the Ohio defense, as well as a pair of excellent catches against the outfield wall by Tori Walker and Caitlin Fogue, Ohio was able to remain competitive.

The Bobcats were down by three runs heading into the fourth inning. They could have been down by a much wider margin, but their defense was able to keep the game close and keep the record-setting 1,009 fans in attendance on Tuesday night engaged.

“They made a bunch of really good plays,” Ohio coach Kenzie Roark said. “They made key plays that kept runs off the board, so I’m really proud of that.”

After the plays made in the outfield early in the game, the defensive spotlight turned to Ohio third baseman Annalia Paoli.

In the third inning, Paoli snatched a line drive to steal a hit from Ohio State’s McKenzie Bump. In the fifth, she outdid herself by almost flipping into Ohio’s dugout while reaching in to catch a foul ball and helping to keep Ohio State off the board.

The Buckeyes pulled away with three runs in the final two innings, but the Bobcats didn’t stop making plays on defense. Even the final out the Bobcats recorded in the game came after pitcher Mackensie Kohl snagged a line drive that hurtled back toward the circle.

It wasn’t just Ohio that was making spectacular defensive plays, however. Ohio State center fielder Meggie Otte made a fantastic diving catch in left center field to get Megan McMenemy out and end the game.

In addition to the highlight plays on defense, Ohio played a clean game. It didn’t record a single error Tuesday. Ohio has averaged more than an error per game this season and had made at least one in seven of its last eight games ahead of Tuesday’s contest. The Bobcats have had multiple games this year in which they made multiple errors and ended up losing by slim margins. Cleaning up the defense can be a huge step towards winning close games, which the Bobcats will need to do in Mid-American Conference play.

Ohio’s clean defensive performance wasn’t enough to win Tuesday’s game. But if it continues to field the ball as well as it did against Ohio State, it may be able to flip close games in its future. When Ohio kicked off conference play against Buffalo, it lost two games by one run each. If last weekend is any evidence, Ohio will play plenty of tight games in the MAC, and Tuesday’s defensive performance is a sign that it has a chance to turn those into wins.


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