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Ohio catcher/infielder, Emma Hoffner (7), during the second game against Western Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, April 20, 2024, in Athens.

Softball: Ohio picks up improbable win to split doubleheader against Western Michigan

In one instant, one swing of the bat, all of the doubt and dread of losing another game turned to dust. Ohio (22-21, 10-8 Mid-American Conference) looked dead to rights numerous times during the second game of its doubleheader against Western Michigan (23-18, 12-6 MAC). However, an improbable win was made possible by nothing short of belief and confidence in getting the job done. Ohio’s electrifying win might not have done a whole lot for it in the standings, but it sent a jolt of energy through Ohio, faithful that it cannot be overlooked. 

The game’s first five-and-a-half innings were disappointing for Ohio. After being held scoreless by Western Michigan’s ace, Rissa Bajusz, in Game 1, Ohio finally scored a run. Yasmine Logan hit a ground ball to short and, with two in scoring position, an error on the throw home by the Western Michigan catcher allowed Izzie Wilson to score. However, Western Michigan’s No. 2 starter, Kailey O’Connor, found her rhythm. 

Ohio struggled to hit with runners on base, leaving seven runners stranded in the first five innings. None more frustrating for Ohio, arguably, than the fourth inning when two runners were in scoring position with one out and O’Connor wiggled out of the jam unscathed. With Ohio starter Mikie Lieving giving Western Michigan fits Ohio needed to score some runs. However, Western Michigan was the team to score, adding a run in the top of the sixth to make it 3-1. 

Ohio infielder, Lauren Yuhas (1), slides into third base during the second game against Western Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, April 20, 2024, in Athens.

The bottom of the sixth was an exhilarating ride for Ohio that would make anyone see a spike in their blood pressure. With one out, Brenna Farmer singled and Belle Hummel pinch ran for Farmer. Then, Ohio coach Jenna Hall sent freshman Emily Caron to the plate. Caron had yet to pick up her first college hit, let alone an RBI. Moreover, this was one of the biggest spots in the game. A wild pitch and passed ball put Hummel on third. The job for Caron got a lot easier: all she needed to do was put the ball past the pitcher and the run would score. Caron did one better, driving a single up the middle for her first hit and RBI at Ohio. 

“In practice, we do a lot of work and these girls work really hard. even the ones that aren’t in the game,” Hall said. “A lot of people have been preparing and showing up and doing really good work in practice, so when they earn it that way, you just get really excited and happy for them.”

The game, however, was still in favor of the Broncos. The Bobcats would later tie the game as Lauren Yuhas lined a single to bring home the third run of the day. The Broncos would not cede and erupted for a three-run seventh. In the process, they knocked Lieving out of the game and brought on Skipp Miller, who pitched all seven innings in Game 1. Miller got out of the inning after allowing the two runners she inherited to score, increasing the deficit to three runs for the Bobcats. Trailing by three runs, the feeling at Ohio Softball Field was eerie, to say the least. 

When Sydney Grein led off the inning with a bloop double to right field, that feeling did not change. With the next two batters getting out, it would have been easy for viewers of the game to assume the team was going to drop both ends of the doubleheader, as well as the series. Down to their last out the team, though, did not feel the same way. Farmer walked and brought up Logan, the team leader in home runs. In the back of every fan’s mind in the stadium was likely the same, “What if she does it?” 

Logan validated anyone with that thought. She deposited a pitch beyond the right-center field wall as her teammates exploded out of the dugout to greet her at the plate. Logan’s contribution might have been the one that gets remembered, but it could not have been done without her teammates setting the stage for her. 

“I was just looking to make good contact because I trust my teammates behind me that if I get on, they’re going to keep the rally going,” Logan said. 

Ohio infielder, Tori O'Brien (1), during the second game against Western Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, April 20, 2024, in Athens.

Hall felt intense confidence that despite the long odds, her team would find a way to get the job done in that situation. 

“I think early in the game, we were chasing a lot of stuff that wasn’t in the zone,” Hall said. “So then learning that they can stay confident in their pitch selection so they make the pitches come through the zone. I think that was a big adjustment.” 

Miller retook the circle with the entire crowd at OSF behind her. She got a scoreless inning and got Ohio back into the dugout. When Western Michigan scored in the sixth, Bajusz got injured while being thrown out at home, forcing her to exit the game. That meant O’Connor was required to continue pitching despite some struggles in the late stages of the game. 

In the eighth, Yuhas hit a one-out double, putting the winning run two bases away from touching home. Emma Hoffner would reach on a fielder’s choice, bringing Grein to the plate. To this point, Ohio had just one walkoff hit: a fielder’s choice hit by Tori O’Brien on Feb. 16 against Drexel in Greensboro, North Carolina. Grein doubled that figure, driving a walk-off home run to right-center. 

Jubilation from the team and onlookers ensued and Ohio had escaped with its most improbable win of the season. 


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