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Ohio catcher Emma Hoffner (7) makes the catch against Northern Illinois at Ohio Softball Field in Athens, Apr. 7, 2024.

Softball: Ohio sweeps Northern Illinois as bats come alive late, winning 6-3

Calling games “must-win” is a rather cliche thing in the eyes of many coaches. For Ohio (20-18, 8-6 MAC), that phrase might not be how it felt entering this weekend against Northern Illinois (9-23, 3-9 Mid-American Conference). However, it certainly felt as though a trio of wins at home would do wonders for its long-term outlook this season. That was exactly what happened for Ohio this weekend: it swept Northern Illinois in convincing fashion and extended its winning streak to seven games with its 6-3 victory Sunday. 

Getting the start would be Ellie Greene, a transfer from Jackson College, a community college in Michigan. Despite this being her second season for Ohio, she has not had a lot of opportunities to put her skillset on full display. Last year, she threw just 6.1 innings, and this year she entered the game with 6.2 innings. On Sunday, she would throw all seven innings, a new career high for the right-hander. 

In the first game, she got a 1-2-3 inning, punctuated by a strikeout of Caitlyn Shumaker, who hit a pair of home runs in Game 1 of the series the day prior. Ohio’s day would get off to a similarly slow start with Northern Illinois’ Danielle Stewart rebounding from a tough outing yesterday to post a scoreless inning. 

Greene’s solid outing would continue in the second as despite giving up a leadoff walk followed by a hit batter on a bunt attempt, Greene would retire the next three batters to keep the game scoreless. She was only matched by Stewart, who put up yet another zero. 

Northern Illinois would get the first hit of the afternoon by Ellis Erickson as she hit a double with one out. However, Greene escaped another jam as a double play ended the third inning. Ohio would match Northern Illinois’s hit with a bunt single by CiCi Keidel, who was ultimately stranded. 

Ohio would get the scoring started in the fourth inning against Stewart. With Yasmine Logan and Shelby Westler on base for Ohio, Izzie Wilson drove a ball just off the railing below the netting in right-center field for a two-run double. Although she was thrown out trying to get back into second, Wilson had put Ohio on top in the final game of the series as it looked for a sweep. 

“I think that looking back to the first (Central Michigan) game, we just never adjusted and we lost that tight one,” Ohio head coach Jenna Hall said. “The big conversation was that we just have to keep going, we have to adjust in our at-bats to get those balls in play and do it together as a team.” 

The Huskies would get a run back as Madison Mathews clobbered a home run halfway onto the roof of the indoor batting cages to cut the lead in half for the Bobcats, 2-1. 

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Ohio infielder Brenna Farmer (13) gets ready to bat against Northern Illinois at Ohio Softball Field in Athens, Apr. 7, 2024.

The Bobcats would respond with a big inning of their own, scoring three runs. The first run came off an error in the outfield off the bat of Logan, allowing Tori O’Brien to scamper home. The next two runs for the Bobcats came off aggressive base running. Belle Hummel, who walked in her at bat, crossed home after a wild pitch. Logan would score after the Bobcats put Emma Hoffner in motion at first, distracting the Huskies' defense and allowing Logan to dive headfirst into home. 

“I just read the defense,” Logan said. “I knew that (Hoffner) was going on the delayed steal for us and once I saw them try to go for her, I just took off.”

From there, Ohio scored another run in the bottom of the sixth, extending its lead to 6-1 heading into the final frame. The late offense has been something that has characterized the team lately. During its seven-game win streak, Ohio has outscored its opponents 26-8 from the fourth inning or later. 

“I think we have made some really good adjustments,” Hall said. “The (team) did a great job of that and getting on top of pitches. I think early on, we were under everything and they knew they had to get on top and then I think we took advantage of some mistakes ... Hitting is mostly taking advantage of mistakes over the plate, so I think we did a good job of that.” 

Even though Northern Illinois scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning, the game belonged to Greene. By completing the complete game, Greene threw her first complete game in the NCAA.

With the winning streak now at seven games, Ohio is playing as well as anyone in the MAC, except for Miami. As was predicted in the Preseason Poll, Ohio is the best challenger to its biggest rival. Judging how it has played over the last few weeks, the confidence to be able to unseat the reigning champions is higher than ever for Ohio. 


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