Updated Fri, Feb 7, 2014 4:26 pm
Small ball will be the name of the game for the Ohio Bobcats softball team in 2014.
Coming off a 2013 campaign in which the Bobcats finished in the middle of the road, going 28-29 and 9-13 in Mid-American Conference play, the Bobcats will need to find a way to manufacture runs without one of the top players in the nation as Lauren Gellerman graduated at the end of last season.
In losing Gellerman, the Bobcats lose a senior leader who batted .405, hit 26 home runs, drove in 70 runs, and started in every game Ohio played in 2013.
Coach Jodi Hermaneck dispelled the notion that anyone needs to make up for Gellerman’s power numbers.
“We’re not training anybody to be a beef-hitting, home run knocker-out-of-the parker,” she said. “We’re training our athletes to do what they can do, what their capability is.”
“I think one of the things that we’re trying to do offensively is build the confidence, the plan, the strategy, that putting pressure on the defense, and utilizing that speed that we have this year is … going to produce runs for us. “
The Bobcats lose not only Gellerman, but also D.J. Engelman, who left the program, and leadoff hitter Tessa Bailey. Team cheerleader Biz Eyrise, who injected the program with energy from the bench, will no longer be that loud voice from the dugout.
Ohio also lost slugger Caitlin Colvin, but not entirely, as she stayed with the program in a volunteer coaching role. Colvin coupled with Gellerman to provide a powerful 1-2 punch in the meat of the lineup that the Bobcats will be hard-pressed to make up for.
There are multiple players that will help lead the charge in stepping up for the production lost with Gellerman and Colvin.
Ohio will have to count on the more small-ball approach from experienced players. Bobcats like senior Erin Lashley exemplify this approach, specifically in her case as a slap-hitter.
“A lot of the slappers, we’ve been working with being able to have more power,” Lashley said, “and not just slapping, hitting away and kind of playing with the defenses because that can be a real asset.”
Others like catcher Adrienne Gebele, infielder Amanda Dalton, infielder Raven King, and outfielder Alyssa Wolfe, who made the game-saving, jaw-dropping catch to send Ohio on in a MAC Tournament victory over Miami, are back to lead the team.
Dalton and Wolfe have the potential to be top-of-the lineup type players who will steal bases and move each other along using slap-hitting and bunting.
Savannah Jo Dorsey, Lauren McClary, Raven King, and Kaylin Clarke will be expected to hold down the mound this season.
Dorsey earned a spot on the All-MAC Freshman Team a year ago while pitching beyond her years. She led the team in numerous categories, most notably wins (14), strikeouts (184) and innings pitched (177.1). McClary, a junior, has taken on a starter’s role in each of the last two years and comes into the year with many expectations placed upon her, including holding down the second spot in a staff that will require her to start the second most games of any pitcher. McClary will also be expected to come on in more than a few relief appearances.
The success of the pitching staff will be particularly important in close games that Ohio will have to scrap to win.
And despite the cold in the early spring the team has been able to at least get outside and practice on the football turf a bit, as well as practice on the indoor tennis courts per usual.
Three-hour sessions of hitting and three-hour field instruction have this Bobcats group ready to get onto the diamond. Hermaneck is specifically excited about the incoming freshmen.
“I’m really excited about this freshman group,” she said. “They’re just kind of coming out here not knowing what to really expect or anything but it’s not fazing them. They’re just putting in a lot of focus to what they’re doing.”
“You have to be fighters, you have to fight, you have to be just bulldogs and scrappy all the way through seven innings” Hermaneck continued. “No game is a game to coast in, whether you’re on the winning side of it or not.”
It’s a bit of the old, but always a bit of new as both Lashley and Hermaneck emphasized that new teams always have relatively new identities.
“I think we’re going to be fun like we always are,” Lashley said. “It’s kind of a new look … I think it’s going to be the same mentality as we’ve always had, and I think it’s going to be the same environment.”
Don’t expect too many long drives out of the Ohio Softball Complex this season. This team will be a throwback to an older, more strategic type of softball.