Note: This story appears in the Friday, April 26 newspaper on Page B1.
The Bobcats will end an 11-day break in fitting fashion this weekend when they welcome in their friends from Oxford for another installment of the ‘Battle of the Bricks.’
Ohio (28-17, 9-6 Mid-American Conference) will wrap up the home portion of the 2019 schedule with a three-game set against MAC-leading Miami (26-14, 11-4 MAC). The series — because of wet weather — will start Saturday at 1 p.m. with a doubleheader at the Ohio Softball Field. The series will wrap up on Sunday beginning at 12 p.m.
The Bobcats haven’t played since a 4-3 loss at Ohio State on April 16. Ohio, fourth in the overall MAC standings, remains within striking distance of the conference lead but any hopes of gaining the league regular-season title hinge on beating the RedHawks over the weekend.
The three-game set for will be the final homestead for a half-dozen Ohio seniors; Natalie Alvarez, McKenzie Brunswick, Deanna Cole, Alex Day, Morgan Geno and fifth-year Michaela Dorsey will be honored in a pregame ceremony prior to Sunday’s first pitch.
Prior to Saturday’s twinbill, Ohio President Dr. Duane Nellis will be on hand to perform a pregame graduation ceremony. The Bobcats will in Buffalo during Ohio’s May 4 graduation ceremonies.
Geno, in particular, is hoping for a big weekend. She’s crafted a league MVP worthy season, and leads the MAC in home runs (17), RBI (57), walks (34), on-base percentage (.509), and slugging percentage (.814). Already the career leader in RBI, Geno ranks fifth nationally in the category and needs just three more to tie the Ohio single-season record — 60, set in 2013 by Laura Gellerman.
Sophomore infielder Katie Yun — the MAC leader in hits (68) and runs scored (43) — has teamed with Geno to give Ohio the most potent lineup in the league. Yun ranks second in the MAC in batting average (.415), slugging percentage (.762) and home runs (13), and is third in RBI (34).
As a team, Ohio leads the MAC in seven major offensive categories including team batting average (.305), runs scored (265), hits (385), triples (11), home runs (63), RBI (239) and slugging (.515).
The Bobcats will bring those big bats to bear against Miami, which counters with the best top-end pitching in the MAC.
The RedHawks, who have won five in a row, lead the league in ERA (2.81), strikeouts (311) and runs allowed (128).
Miami’s top three pitchers in the circle form the best trio in the MAC. Sophomore Courtney Vierstra (11-7, 4 saves) is second in the MAC in ERA (2.23) and strikeouts (188), and fourth in batting average allowed (.218). Freshman Brianna Pratt (13-6, 3.13 ERA) leads Miami in wins and has 88 strikeouts in 103.0 innings pitched. Sophomore Taylor Rathe is ninth in the MAC in allowing opposing hitters to bat just .236.
Miami has been the league’s hottest team of late, and brings a five-game winning streak to Athens. Over the month of April, Miami has posted a 10-2 record with a 1.78 ERA.
The Bobcats current trail Miami, Kent State (10-4 MAC) and Central Michigan (8-5-1) in the MAC standings, but hold slim leads on Ball State (8-6), Northern Illinois (9-8) and Western Michigan (7-7).
With six scheduled conference games remaining, there is still a lot of room to either climb — or tumble — in the MAC standings.
Ohio will wrap up the regular season with a three-game series beginning on Friday, May 3 in Buffalo. The 2019 MAC Tournament is schedule to begin on Wednesday, May 8. The Bobcats will clinch a spot in the tournament with two more wins over the final slate.