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Ohio infielder, Shelby Westler (17), looks infield during the second game of the doubleheader against Central Michigan at Ohio Softball Field, March 29, 2024, in Athens.

Softball: Ohio’s defense is the reason behind its recent success

After a 1-6 start to Mid-American Conference play, during which Ohio (17-18, 5-6 MAC) allowed 5 or more runs in all but two games, the team has started to hit its stride in its most recent two series, winning its last four games. 

Its current stretch, which includes a three-game series against Central Michigan and a mid-week doubleheader against Kent State, has featured elite defense across the board, excellent fielding, pitching and low run totals throughout the week.

In three of its last five games, the Bobcats have allowed just a single run, with only 2 and 3 runs allowed in the other two games. This has been Ohio's best defensive stretch of the season, as the team has allowed 8 total runs over five games compared to the 43 it allowed in its first six games of MAC play.

Ohio has allowed an average of 5.8 hits per game, a massive credit to both the pitching and fielding units. Skipp Miller, who pitched 24 of the 35 total innings over the last five games, deserves credit for the Bobcats’ defensive prowess. 

Miller, a two-time MAC Pitcher of the Week this season, has had an excellent redshirt sophomore season despite Ohio’s slower start.

Another catalyst is junior second baseman Lauren Yuhas, who has been playing her position lights out, making many pivotal plays all season. Statistically, Yuhas has been one of the most impactful players for the Bobcats’ defense, with 53 putouts and 30 assists.

Ohio Coach Jenna Hall has described Yuhas’ play as aggressive. Any time a ball is hit in her direction, there’s little doubt that the play won’t be made. Every big play by Yuhas is at the perfect time and when the Bobcats need it most, continuously stealing outs or finding herself involved in double play opportunities.

Following a game against Central Michigan, Hall said the theme for defensive improvement and toughness is improving the team’s short-term memory. In sports, staying confident through forgetting bad plays is one thing, but focusing on learning from them while not getting hung up on a mistake is what Hall and the Bobcats focus on.

These short-term lessons are key for long-term improvement and becoming a consistent and successful team. 

While the offense has yet to find its stride, still finding itself on the wrong side of shutouts from time to time, it has had its explosive moments. Now, with the defense starting to come together, Ohio will be able to capitalize on those explosive offensive nights more often, giving the team more leeway to make offensive mistakes in the nights that aren’t as high-scoring.

Over the last five games, Ohio has shown tremendous improvement through learning these lessons on the fly, and it has shown both on the field and the stat sheet.

Looking ahead on the schedule, Ohio has a chance to continue building momentum against a struggling Northern Illinois team before heading out for its second-to-last nonconference game against Ohio State, which is 17-8 in nonconference matchups.


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