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Ohio catcher/infielder, Emma Hoffner (7), bats during the second game of the doubleheader against Central Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, March 29, 2024, in Athens.

Softball: Ohio splits a defensive doubleheader against Central Michigan

After an extended period away from its home field, Ohio (14-18, 2-6 Mid-American Conference) walked onto the diamond in Athens to face off against Central Michigan (6-20, 3-2 MAC) in a Friday doubleheader. Against Miami, and towards the end of the Ball State series, it seemed as though the Bobcats were finding their rhythm on offense but inning-to-inning consistency was stressed by Ohio coach Jenna Hall leading up to the series against the Chippewas.

While that consistency in scoring has yet to be found, Ohio managed to split the doubleheader off a heroic fourth inning in the second game. The defense was the winning factor, though, as Ohio allowed just 2 total runs through the two games.

Game One

The first game of the doubleheader was slow and scoreless for the Bobcats. While Skipp Miller and the defense only gave up three hits, one error and a single run, the offense did not score after tallying six hits on the day. The Bobcats would go on to fall 1-0.

Ohio outfielder, Izzie Wilson (30), looks toward the infield during the first game of the doubleheader against Central Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, March 29, 2024, in Athens.

More than anything, pop-ups in the infield were Ohio’s biggest enemy, keeping it from scoring.

A couple of calls were heavily contested by the Chippewa fans in attendance, along with a massive catch by Miller, The Bobcats kept within reach till the final out. However, with runners on first and second for most of the seventh, the inning closed with the Bobcats unable to make up the single-run deficit.

It was a slow game that featured great pitching on both sides, but it proved to be the small differences that made the impact in the Bobcats' fourth-straight loss in MAC play.

Game Two

There were not many changes to the lineup in the second game of the doubleheader besides Sydney Grein taking Austy Miller’s spot at shortstop and Mikie Lieving taking over for Miller as pitcher.

Both the Bobcats’ and Chippewas' defenses were seemingly everywhere on the diamond throughout the game, with the Bobcats making impressive double plays throughout the game. Lieving, a promising freshman who pitches lefty, proved she was a challenging different look for Central Michigan. Both teams were scoreless through the first three innings before the Chippewas netted its first run in the top of the fourth.

“She (Lieving) has a really good change-up and I think it keeps people off balance,” Hall said. “When we wanted to go inside today, she was really hitting her spots and jamming them up for those pop-ups.”

At the bottom of the third, Ohio had a chance to score its first run of the afternoon with Yasmine Logan up to bat and CiCi Keidel and Lauren Yuhas on third and second base, respectively. However, with two outs already on the board, Logan found the ball causing it to fly right into the glove of Central Michigan’s defender at first base.

Ohio outfielder, Yasmine Logan (14), begins to run to first base during the second game of the doubleheader against Central Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, March 29, 2024, in Athens.

As the game entered its second half in the bottom of the fourth, Annalia Paolli, the Bobcats’ current roster’s career leader in almost every offensive stat, led the charge on a comeback. With runners on second and third, Paoli found a hole in the defense, which let Shelby Westler run home. Grein followed Paoli and let Emma Hofner run in for the lead. A double steal distraction play allowed Paoli to run in for the trifecta.

“She (Paoli) has the ability to change a game with one swing,” Hall said. “I'm just happy with how she came in prepared and she was ready to go and really helped us out today.”

The game was essentially put to bed when Westler sent it over the fence, giving Ohio a 4-1 lead. The rest of the game went without a score, allowing the Bobcats to officially split the series.


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