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The Ohio University softball team celebrates at the game against Toledo at Ohio Softball Field on April 25, 2023, in Athens, Ohio.

Softball: Motivated Ohio squad looks to dominate MAC this season

After a successful season for Ohio in 2023, it ended in heartbreak. The team fell to top-ranked Miami in the Mid-American Conference tournament, ending its hopes of making the NCAA tournament.

The Bobcats started the 2023 season slow, only winning five of the team's first fifteen matchups, but the team got hot during conference play. Ohio won 10 straight games from March 24 to April 4. 

The team finished 20-9 in the MAC, which was good enough for the second seed in the conference tournament.

However, after beating third-ranked Central Michigan in the semifinals, Ohio could not overcome Miami, who had given it trouble all season.

"In times where you don't find the result that you worked for, most of the time it's a motivation," Ohio Coach Jenna Hall said. "There's been a little bit of that burn for the team across the board."

Now, the motivated Bobcats are projected to finish second in the MAC, per the MAC Coaches Preseason Poll. Entering their second season under Coach Jenna Hall, the reigning MAC Coach of the Year, the Bobcats are confident.

The team is heading into its 2024 campaign with many key returners from the previous season. All five players with a batting average over .300 are returning; Annalia Paoli, Alexis Dawe, Yasmine Logan, Tori O'Brien and Emma Hofner are back for the Bobcats. All of those players, except for O'Brien, who missed a handful of games last season, finished in the top six in at-bats for Ohio.

"With the experience we have returning from last season, the whole year has been about consistency," Hall said. "We have 19 players that are all on board and connected."

On top of their upperclassmen returners, the Bobcats are also bringing back a handful of talented underclassmen who will be looking to build on impactful first years. Shelby Westler finished third on the team in home runs as a freshman, while Belle Hummel finished second in at-bats.

The most impactful first year from last season, who will be looking to build on her successful first year, is pitcher Skipp Miller, reigning MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year. 

Miller boasted an 18-13 record as a pitcher for Ohio, boasting 20 complete games. In the MAC, Miller got her feet under her, tallying 14 of her 18 wins against conference opponents.

The Bobcats will be leaning on Miller even more in 2024 after the departure of Kylie Coffelt, a now-alum of Ohio who had the second-most innings pitched for Ohio last year. 

Coffelt was a valuable option along with the freshman phenom in Miller, going 10-7 herself. When the Bobcats are required to rest Miller, they'll be looking at a group that is unproven at the college level but has the full confidence of Coach Hall.

Hall believes that the entire pitching room has put in hours of hard work this offseason to replace Coffelt, especially returners Keegan Moore and Ellie Greene. Hall also sees freshman Mikie Lieving as someone who brings a different look to the mound and expects her to have an impact throughout the season.

Infielders Brenna Farmer, Emily Caron and outfielder Izzie Wilson will join this year's freshman class alongside Lieving. Hall believes all four will be ready when their time comes. They all played in high-level high school competitions coming into the program and eagerly awaited their chance to join the Bobcats.

"I think we're all determined that we want to win this year; I mean, that was the goal last year," Skipp Miller said. "The entire team's goal is to win, and we're all going in with the mindset like, 'let's dominate.’"


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