The Bobcats lost to Western Michigan, 3-0, in Game 1 of their doubleheader Saturday at the Ohio Softball Field.
Ohio’s offense struggled, but the ‘Cats were positioned to shave their late three-run deficit with one out in the sixth inning when Taylor Saxton reached first base off a line drive down the first-base line.
Center-fielder Deanna Cole was next to bat and she flied out after a bunt attempt. She knew she had to move Saxton forward to second base, but the bunt was not used just to move base runners –- many Ohio players used the bunt and hitting the ball infield to try generating base hits.
Ohio coach Jodi Hermanek said playing small-ball wasn’t a strategy, but players stuck with it because they were struggling to make a decision on how to hit the “low zone” of the field.
“Some of our slappers by choice tried going to contact instead of trying to drive the ball through the infield,” Hermanek said.
After Cole flied out, Saxton went on to steal second, and Mikayla Cooper had a chance to cut into the three-run deficit. She drove the ball deep into left-field for what would’ve been a double, had not Broncos outfielder Ivy Schaaf sprinted and dove sideways for an acrobatic catch to end the inning.
Despite not landing the hit, Cooper did something very effective against the Broncos to that point in the series: She drove the ball — much like she drove the ball for a three-run homer that lifted the ‘Cats over Western Michigan on Friday.
Meanwhile, hitting shallow or bunting proved to be an effective way to hit or forward a base runner just three times in Saturday’s game, not the best go-to tactic for how much it was used.
Hermanek recognized her team needed more balance offensively.
“We are always going to use the short game to move runnners in situations for the most part, Hermanek said. “But we were getting complacent with the bats and not going to our strengths. Our plan was not giving ourselves the benefit of how to hit that zone, and we got on each other about it.”
The Bobcats (18-9, 1-1 MAC) only produced two walks and two hits in the contest, with shortstop Amanda Dalton producing one of those hits using a fake-bunt in the third inning, decoying then turning her bat to hit the ball down the third-base line for a single.
Dalton’s play lately has captured Coach Hermanek’s attention, and she responded by moving Dalton to the top of the lineup for Game 2.
“Mandy’s been hot,” Hermanek said, while explaining her decision. “We needed a spark to take some pressure off some kids that have too much going on in their brains and to get somebody with some obvious percentage at the top of our lineup.”
Hermanek also noted that Dalton used to be the leadoff hitter and that she’s been the only effective player the last two days against both lefty pitchers.
Ohio plays Western Michigan again in Game 2, Saturday, at 3:30 p.m., in the second game of its double-header at Ohio Softball Field.