After over a week of rest, Ohio's (25-18, 15-6 Mid-American Conference) offense wasn't as sharp as normal early in its 2-1 win over Toledo (18-23, 11-12 MAC).
Despite a 10-day gap since her last outing, Skipp Miller was just as dominant as she has been all season from the first pitch. Miller forced the Rockets into two foul outs to start the game and ended the first inning, striking out power-hitting Jenna Kroll.
In the bottom of the first inning, Yasmine Logan appeared to get the Bobcats on the board with a long fly ball, but it was determined to be foul and Logan popped out to second base later in the at-bat. Emma Hoffner couldn't make Toledo's Erin Hunt pay for the walk she issued, and her ground out ended the inning.
Miller went right back to work in the second with her second straight strikeout. Miller forced two more Rockets hitters into weak contact to retire the first six hitters of the game.
Two of the first three Bobcat hitters reached base to start the second inning, but neither Cici Keidel nor Tori O'Brien could drive in either runner, and the inning ended with the game still scoreless.
Ohio's struggles with runners in scoring position didn't phase Miller, who forced the Rockets into more weak contact. Perfect through seven hitters, Miller was aided by a running grab from Belle Hummel in foul territory. She then forced Sidney Griffith into a popout in the infield.
The Bobcats went down quietly in the bottom half of the third when Hummel and Alexis Dawe struck out.
Miller was still perfect in the fourth inning when she forced Leah Munson into a flyout, but Anna Dixon ended her perfect game bid with an infield hit. Kroll put pressure on Miller with a single to right field, advancing Dixon to third. Miller allowed her first run of the game on a wild pitch, but her teammates helped limit the damage. Keidel made a great throw from shortstop to throw out a Toledo runner and Sydney Grein made a running grab in right field to end the inning.
The Bobcats wasted no time answering in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hoffner's leadoff single set the Bobcats up, but two straight strikeouts hindered their chances to get into the scoring column. After a number of close calls, Shelby Westler finally got the Bobcats on the board with a two-run home run to left.
Westler's hit relieved some of the Bobcats' offensive frustrations, and the Bobcats can always rely on her in important moments.
"Shelby has been clutch for us all season ," Ohio head coach Jenna Hall said. "... She's a really team-oriented person, and I know the team feeds off of that with her, I'm just really proud of her."
Receiving her only form of run support in the game, Miller worked around a base hit to keep the Bobcats in front after the top of the fifth.
As they had been doing for most of the game, the Bobcats got runners on base in the bottom of the fifth. Hummel and Logan hit back-to-back base hits, and Dawe walked in the next at-bat to set up a bases-loaded situation with only one out. Needing to only hit a ball fairly deep in the outfield to score a run, Hoffner popped out to second base. Hunt then forced Annalia Paoli to ground out in the next at-bat and escaped the jam.
Back-to-back Rockets hitters hit lazy fly balls to the outfield in the top of the sixth, and Miller flashed her quick reflexes when she snagged a ball hit hard directly at her to end the top of the sixth. Grein and Westler put the Bobcats in position to add to their lead when they reached base with no outs. A sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, but Kaci Branch and Hummel struck out consecutively, meaning Miller had to pitch another scoreless frame for the Bobcats to win.
Looking as sharp as she did in the first inning, Miller struck out her fifth batter of the game to lead off the inning. Miller got the second out of the inning when she forced Aubrey Reed into a popout and finished her complete game when Lauren Erickson popped a ball right to O'Brien to end the game.
The win kept Ohio tied atop the MAC with Miami and Central Michigan, and according to Westler, the Bobcats are well aware of the task ahead of them for the rest of the regular season.
"We just keep it in the back of our minds it's not going to be an easy way to the MAC (tournament)," Westler said. "We're up against Central Michigan and Miami so we know we have to keep performing."