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The Ohio Softball Team reacts to an unsuccessful throw over to first by the Northern Illinois pitcher on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

Softball: Defense and late-inning collapses doom Ohio in doubleheader sweep by Northern Illinois

Saturday’s doubleheader couldn’t have gone much worse for Ohio. It was swept by Northern Illinois despite holding a multi-run lead heading into the sixth inning in both games.

Over the first five innings of each game, the Bobcats outscored the Huskies 11-6, holding a three-run lead in the first game and a two-run lead in the second. In the sixth and seventh innings Saturday, however, the Bobcats were outscored 14-1 and ended up losing by three and five runs, respectively.

Unfortunately for Ohio, it was more than simply a pair of late inning meltdowns that went wrong. Ohio’s defense, which had been excellent in Mid-American Conference play, was simply dreadful.

The Bobcats committed ten errors across the two games, their most in any two-game span since their fourth and fifth games of the season. Just nine of the 20 runs the Bobcats gave up Saturday were earned, and errors and defensive miscues played a huge part in the two biggest innings of the day.

In the top of the sixth inning of the first game, with Ohio leading 6-3, Northern Illinois scored six runs, but thanks to an error by second baseman Lauren Yuhas, five of them were unearned.

In the top of the seventh in game two, Northern Illinois scored five runs to take a commanding 10-5 lead, and while Ohio didn’t commit an error in the inning, there was a key wild pitch and Northern Illinois was able to take an extra base multiple times.

Coming into Saturday’s doubleheader, Ohio had five conference games in which it had committed more than one error and seven error-free MAC games. Not only had Ohio avoided mistakes in conference play, its defense was regularly a huge bonus, making countless spectacular plays over the course of this season.

There is no question that Saturday’s defensive performance was not up to the Bobcat’s lofty standards, but based on all the evidence from this season, that will not continue.

“We need to be better on defense,” said first baseman Caroline Spacek. “We know how to fix our problems. We come out here every day and we practice really hard so I’m not too worried about it.”

If there was a silver lining for the Bobcats, it was their offense. It has been one of the best in the MAC this season, and that side of the ball was certainly not at fault for Saturday’s doubleheader sweep.

Ohio scored 12 runs on just 15 hits and took advantage almost every time it got runners on base. Ohio also drew seven walks over the two games, and that patient approach was a key offensively.

Annalia Paoli continued her string of strong performances, picking up three hits and a home run Saturday after hitting three home runs in Ohio’s midweek series against Kent State.

Additionally, Allie Englant had a great day at the plate, tallying two doubles and two triples. Englant has been incredible for Ohio since returning from injury, and Saturday was no different.

Two things that the Bobcats have done incredibly well this season, defense and late-inning heroics, were their downfall Saturday, and with only four teams making the MAC tournament, they cannot afford any more slip-ups like this.

@willocunningham

wc425318@ohio.edu

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