Ohio softball Dorsey pitching
Photo: Kaleb Carter

Dorsey Out, Clarke & McClary have Chance to Shine

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After Savannah Jo Dorsey got injured early in the season, things weren’t looking good for the Ohio softball team.

Losing any starting pitcher is hard, but losing one who was ranked as No. 24 in the country during the preseason is devastating. As expected, the Bobcats have struggled throughout the early part of this season — going 5-12 with seven games to go before conference play begins — trying to find a pitching rotation that best fits them.

It turns out that coach Jodi Hermanek only needed to look at two players that she’s had the longest for the solution.

Lauren McClary, who spent much of her time last year sharing time with Dorsey, has stood out as one of the best options for Hermanek to install in the circle, while Kaylin Clarke has also been a quality option. Together they have started 10 starts in 17 games, and have been the most consistent forces in the Bobcats defense this season.

“She (McClary) had some great outings over the week. I thought that she really stepped up for us,” Hermanek said. “Mac did a great job of owning the innings that she came in on.

But Ohio’s opponents have been tough — no doubt a product of Hermanek’s confidence in this experienced, tough squad — and that shows up in the pitching stats for the Bobcats.

Only Dorsey holds an ERA under 6.00, with a 3.50, while the average for everyone else is 8.23. Clarke is the next best with a 6.34, and she has pitched more innings than any other player this season, while McClary has picked up a 7.65 ERA after being put in some tough situations late in a couple games.

While those ERAs may draw the attention of fearful fans, the Bobcats have faced some stiff competition this year. Between facing No. 13 Tennessee, who are now ranked No. 9, and formerly ranked Texas, it has been a torrid time for Ohio’s pitching staff to get around some of the best offenses in the country.

McClary said that its been hard, but her and Clarke are trying their hardest to get their team wins.

“It’s tough but I know that me and Kaylin are doing the best we can,” she said, “trying to put the team on our backs as much as we can and lead them to those outs and lead them to those wins. Just staying positive through it all because, then again, you have to stay a team, you have to stay together.

“You never want to be out a player but, at the end of the day, we’re a team and we’re going to pick her up whenever she (Dorsey) needs.”

Another big struggle that Clarke has tried to alleviate is the hitting problem that the Bobcats have endured for most of the season.

Ohio has only scored five or more runs in five games this season, and its inability to put runs on the board has been a lingering problem for the Bobcats, especially recently. Despite the teams best efforts, many of the players have been on cold streaks for much of the season, but not Clarke. She has been one of the best hitting-pitchers on the Ohio staff this season, and has kept Ohio in games multiple times.

She currently holds a .310 batting average, four RBIs and has only struck out four times this season. With stats like that, Clarke has established herself as a powerhouse on both sides of the ball and can only hope that her progress in those areas will help spur her team on to more victories.

With Mid-American Conference play rapidly approaching and games against strong teams like No. 14 Kentucky and Marshall, the Bobcats have their work cut out for them if they are going to come into conference play on a high note.

But one thing is for sure, this team is going to go as its two elite pitchers do, and with Clarke’s hitting and McClary’s ability in the circle, Ohio may yet come into the MAC with some momentum and merit the hype that it received in the preseason.

“I think right now we are focusing on putting all sides of the ball together,” Hermanek said. “So now it’s about putting all the good things together at once so we can go into conference with our best A-game going forward.”