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Ohio right hand pitcher, Mikie Lieving (2), steps to throw a pitch during the second game of the doubleheader against Central Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, March 29, 2024, in Athens.

Softball: Despite offensive struggles, pitching and defense pick up slack for doubleheader split

The first ten innings of the doubleheader for Ohio (14-18, 2-6 Mid-American Conference) dragged on without much going on well for the home team at the plate. Facing Central Michigan (6-19, 3-2 MAC), it was not until a 3-run 4th inning in game two that saw it take its first lead of the day.

In game two, Ohio capitalized on errors by Central Michigan, both mental and physical. After a disappointing 1-0 loss in game one, Ohio found an early lead in game two after its impressive fourth inning.

A two-run lead for Ohio was all that it needed, as the pitching was excellent all day. Although she was handed a loss, Skipp Miller, Ohio’s ace, looked like just that: an ace. She pitched all seven innings in Game 1, only giving up a single run in the 1-0 defeat. In Game 2, Ohio put Mikie Lieving in the circle. Lieving’s freshman season has been characterized by some great variance between her highs and lows. Her outing against Central Michigan was certainly a high. 

Ohio pitcher, Skipp Miller (19), steps to pitch the ball during the first game of the doubleheader against Central Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, March 29, 2024, in Athens.

Lieving, like Miller, threw all seven innings, allowing only a single run. She held Central Michigan to the lone run by escaping some jams and benefitting from some timely defensive plays. Lieving’s success comes in part from the leadership of her counterpart, Miller.

“Anything Skipp (Miller) does (I replicate) because I look up to her so much,” Lieving said. “I just saw she kept them off balance. She hit her spots well, so I was going to do that, too.”

Lieving also benefited from consistently being ahead in the count, something that she finds allows her to pitch freely. 

Ohio’s defense has been one of the culprits for its recent slide. It has not been the amount of errors, but rather the timing of them. Today, Ohio avoided these issues. 

One of the best all-around games defensively belonged to Lauren Yuhas. The junior has been the starting second baseman for the last month and has been as solid as can be up the middle. She made countless incredible plays, including a diving grab on a sinking popup in the sixth inning of Game Two. 

“I like (Lauren’s) aggressiveness to get those balls in the air,” Ohio coach Jenna Hall said. “I think she learned her lesson from the first game … We just talked about staying aggressive and going all out to get it.”

Not only did Yuhas play well defensively, but Westler played third base perfectly during the two games. Westler faces a unique challenge at third base, being forced to play incredibly shallow to counteract some of the bunts and small-ball approaches by opponents. 

“Playing a doubleheader is pretty exhausting,” Westler said. “Just prepare beforehand, take care of yourself the night before and just do everything right, don’t overexert before the game … I always tell myself that I have to focus for three seconds (defensively).”

While the doubleheader split was frustrating at times with the lack of offensive production for the first ten frames, Ohio should look at the pitching and defense that kept it afloat when the bats went cold.


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