The X-Factor: Chelsea Hortman

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Chelsea Hortman has settled into an important role for Ohio Softball this season. The senior has brought consistency to the designated player spot in a Bobcat offense that needed someone to fill the role effectively.

And as MAC Tournament play begins, Hortman will likely have to be a big part of that offense for Ohio to have success.

Head coach Jodi Hermanek had experimented with her lineup a great deal over the season, trying to find the right fit. With Hortman batting in the third or fourth spot in the lineup over the course of the last several weeks, she has had her fair share of opportunities at the plate to make a huge impact, and that she has.

In just 69 at-bats, Hortman has the second highest batting average on the team (.319), 18 RBIs and 11 extra base hits, five of which are home runs.

For her efforts this season, Hortman was named to the 2013 All-MAC Second Team.

As good as Hortman has been as of late, she has struggled to get on the field consistently during her college years.

Hortman has been hampered by back problems her over the course of her college softball career. At the start of her senior season, her main role was as a pinch-hitter, coming in for only one at-bat in sparing situations.

But Hortman turned injury into opportunity, keying in on her hitting in practice.

“I’ve had a rough four years here,” she says. “I’ve had injuries and whatnot with my back. And so, with that, it’s been a clear role for me, and so you know, if we have a defensive practice, I’m in the cages, and that’s my main focus.”

The hard work began to pay off in the middle of the season.

On April 12 Hortman would start the first game of a doubleheader versus Miami and would crack out a base knock. In the second game, she would take on the designated player role in what likely would be the game that solidified her as the team’s go-to player in that spot by going 2-4.

That performance started a span of 10 games through April 21 where Hortman was 12-27 from the plate (.407) with 11 RBIs and three home runs.

She was named MAC East player of the week for the week of April 15-21.

Even as she struggled to find a consistent hitter to place in the designated player role, coach Jodi Hermanek has been quite pleased with the productivity and attitude she’s received from Hortman.

“For a while there my DP changed often, and it was whoever was having good practices or whoever had good at-bats in games,” Hermanek says. “And I just really leaned on Chelsea and told her in front of the mass, ‘You’re our DP, go get it, and be this person for us.’ And she’s taken that on like a champ.”

Though Hortman has obviously benefitted from her many plate appearences in the three and four role as of late (she seemed to have settled into the clean up spot), she doesn’t care where in the lineup the coaches put her.

“I don’t care if they bat me ninth,” she says. “I think I’ve really hopped on board hitting because I want to win, and I want a MAC championship. And so that’s been my focus all year.”

Hortman’s focus helped her turn in one of her best games of the season in an important matchup against Central Michigan on May 4.

In Ohio’s second last home game of the year, Hortman was 2-3 from the plate with a home run and a key infield hit in the bottom of the sixth that loaded the bases and led to Alexandria Basquez’s grand slam, the difference in a 7-3 win which clinched a seventh straight MAC Tournament berth for the Bobcats.

Hortman is one of the more fiery characters on the team. When watching the Bobcats, you won’t be hard-pressed to find her encouraging her team, screaming at the top of her lungs from the dugout steps, and pumping her fists. Her mannerisms are positive and emphatic throughout the games, and this has been as much of a boost as her bat.

Hitting coach Taylor Schlopy heaped praise on Hortman.

“We need her desperately as our designated hitter and just to be there in the dugout pumping people up,” she says. “It goes back to her hard work ethic, trusting in her abilities, and knowing her role and finally embracing it. And leaving it all out on the field, I think better than anyone, she has done that especially since she’s a senior.”

Hortman’s bat and demeanor have brought a load of help to this Bobcats team in her senior season. And they will be an X-factor if Ohio is to win its first MAC Tournament in the current format.

No.6 seed Ohio takes on No. 7 Bowling Green Wednesday at 1:30 at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.