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Junior Annalia Paoli (3) slides to the home plate at the game against Ball State on April 2, 2023, in Athens, Ohio. (Megan VanVlack | For The Post)

Softball: Ohio didn't need to hit home runs to beat Ball State

In Ohio's (19-14, 10-2 Mid-American Conference) nine-game winning streak, it has won in several different ways. Ohio has won pitching duels, blowouts and close games. And on Sunday, Ohio won two games without hitting a home run.

In the first game of the doubleheader, the Bobcats displayed the effects of putting the ball in play and allowing the defense to make mistakes. Shelby Westler got herself into scoring position with a double in the second inning, and Cici Keidel put pressure onto the Cardinals' defense with a bunt, which brought in Westler after an error from the Cardinals. After Belle Hummel drew a walk in the next at-bat, the Bobcats continued their emphasis on small ball when Hummel stole a base.

The second inning exemplified the Bobcats' approach that pushed them over the top on Sunday.

"One of the things I've loved about this team is just how athletic we are," Ohio coach Jenna Hall said. "We can run gap to gap, we can take extra bases on mistakes and that's just a matter of them being locked in and they haven't taken their foot off the pedal."

By the end of game one, the Cardinals made four errors, many of which were turned into runs, and the Bobcats only struck out once. Although the Bobcats, only finished the game with nine hits, they still managed to score 10 runs without a home run, based on their patient approach on the plate and aggressive base-running. The Bobcats' offense, mixed with quality pitching from Kylie Coffelt ended the game in six innings.

The Cardinals didn't make nearly as many mistakes in the second game of the doubleheader, and the Bobcats struggled to generate offense. In the bottom of the second inning, Sydney Grein came within inches of hitting a home run before the hit was robbed. The Bobcats didn't let the Cardinals' excellent defense discourage them, though. They used gap-to-gap hitting to put up four runs in the third inning.

The Bobcats had five hits in the third inning, including four doubles. Alexis Dawe, who hit one of the doubles, found that Ohio's altered approach was key against the Cardinals.

"(The key was) hitting gap to gap," Dawe said. "Being selective with our pitches, not chasing out of the zone, looking for one pitch and attacking that one."

Although the Bobcats struck out five times in their 4-2 win, they made the most of their chances with runners in scoring position and used their hustle to create as many chances as possible.

The Bobcats' four-run rally in the third inning started off with weak contact from Keidel that drew many Cardinal defenders toward shallow center field as they tried to catch the ball. Despite great efforts from several Cardinal defenders, the ball landed on the ground for a base hit. As several Cardinal defenders were preoccupied with the ball, no one paid attention to Keidel who sprinted to second base for a double.

The Bobcats' hustle was relentless throughout Sunday, and it was the reason they won both games despite not hitting one out of the park.


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