UB Softball Attempting to Host Ohio for the First Time Since 2013

The usually-biennial trip to Western New York has arrived once again for the Ohio softball team. The Bobcats (23-22, 11-8 MAC) have won eight of their last 10 conference contests, including two of their three home games against Western Michigan this past weekend during the program's 50th anniversary celebration at the Ohio Softball Field. Their current position - fifth place in the MAC table - could be bolstered in these three games against ninth-place Buffalo (15-25, 7-11 MAC), but if history tells us anything, it's that one very important variable has yet to play its part in determining the Bobcats' postseason fate.

Carolyn Spacek (right) celebrates her third-inning home run with Lauren Yuhas (1) 
and Megan McMenemy (21) at Canisius College's Demske Sports Complex. 
March 19, 2022

Field conditions and weather at Nan Harvey Field have been responsible for the Ohio-UB series getting relocated or cancelled each of the last four times they've been scheduled to meet in Buffalo. 2015's doubleheader was scrapped, the three-game sets in 2017 and 2019 were played at D'Youville, and the 2022 series took place at Canisius. The last time games were played at UB as scheduled was on March 30, 2013.

While history is on the side of those hoping this trend continues, the UB athletic department has made a big change to curb this trend - installing turf at Nan Harvey Field this past offseason. Early spring weather in this region does not create favourable conditions for college softball, as evidenced by Buffalo's reliance on outside schools to get games in. But the installation of artificial turf - matching the likes of D'Youville and Canisius - has already helped the Bulls avoid crosstown travel this season.

Using readily-available data going back to 2015, UB has only hosted 64 MAC games at its home facility. D'Youville (22), Medaille (6), Canisius (3), Toledo (3), Akron (3), Kenmore East HS (3), and Fiami (2) have also hosted UB "home" contests. Additionally, nine scheduled conference games have been cancelled outright, meaning barely half of MAC games set to take place at UB's campus have actually happened.

Playing home games away from home surely is tough, especially when it's essentially an annual tradition. And when it affects a team's ability to win, it can create a vicious cycle that's nearly impossible to correct.

Since 2010, UB softball has a MAC record of 97-180-1 (35.1 wpct), and an overall mark of 188-400-3 (32.1 wpct). They have only qualified for the MAC Championship Tournament once, in 2014, when they posted their only winning season in that time (11-5 MAC, 30-22) and were the bracket's second seed. They advanced all the way to the title game, only to lose to the Ohio Bobcats (for the second time in the tournament). Between 2010 and 2019, the conference tournament took the MAC's top eight teams. With the exception of 2014, the Bulls never finished higher than ninth in the conference. The ninth-place finish, which occurred in 2019, was the first year the MAC had 11 teams instead of twelve (with the loss of Eastern Michigan), meaning they still didn't end up higher than third from the bottom of the table.

Following the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign in which no MAC games were played, no conference tournament was held, and the Bulls went 2-11 before the shutdown, the MAC sent 2021 regular-season champion Fiami to the NCAA, opting to forego a conference tournament. The following year, the conference re-instated its postseason competition, but with only the top four regular season squads. 2022 saw UB finish in sixth, but still missed out on the postseason because of the comparatively restricted field.

Over the past 14 seasons, the Bobcats boast a 25-8 overall record against the Bulls. That includes both wins from the 2014 MAC Tournament, the first of Ohio's two conference crowns in that span. Between 2016 and 2019, the Bobcats won 11 straight games by a combined score of 74-21. Since COVID, UB has begun to close the gap, going 6-5 against Ohio, including two wins in three games at D'Youville in 2022 - the last time Ohio made the trek up to Erie County.

The Ohio University softball team celebrates its victory over Buffalo in the MAC Tournament. 
May 10, 2014 (photo courtesy Mid-American Conference)

As for this weekend, the turf at Nan Harvey Field seems to be ready to host the games as planned. The upgrade has already allowed UB to host 10 MAC contests, with only one (against Western Michigan on March 24) getting cancelled. They did reschedule a March series against St. Bonaventure, only to scratch it again this past week - but on account of weather, not the field conditions.

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