Sydney O’Hara barely misses the cycle in 11-10, extra-innings loss to North Carolina
Jordan Phelps | Staff Photographer
Sydney O’Hara rarely gets an ideal pitch, partly because she has the highest on-base percentage in the country. North Carolina’s Brittany Pickett enticed O’Hara to chase outside twice in the first game of the series and struck her out both times. In the second game, the ACC’s top hitter would not be fooled again.
The pitch O’Hara couldn’t connect on just a day ago nearly left the stadium on Sunday. The ball smacked against the fence and she slid in safely at second for her first hit of the day.
“I knew (Pickett) was going to throw me outside a lot,” O’Hara said. “So I was just trying to adjust in the box, fix my mechanics and stay on the ball as long as I can.”
In the final game of the series, O’Hara reached base safely in all five of her at bats. She scored twice, but it wasn’t enough in Syracuse’s (26-17, 7-10 Atlantic Coast) nine-inning 11-10 loss to North Carolina (36-13, 14-6) at SU softball stadium. Sunday marks the sixth time this season the senior has reached safely on her plate appearances in a game. Earlier this year, she accomplished the feat via four home runs. This time, the first basemen was a home run shy of the cycle.
“Syd was doing her thing,” SU head coach Mike Bosch said. “It’s nothing that she hasn’t done. When they pitched around her a little bit she had a good eye, she had a walk. When they put the ball in the strike zone, she had single, double, and a triple. It’s what she’s been doing all season.”
Prior to her four home run performance, O’Hara had only drawn eight walks in 20 games. In the next 22 games, O’Hara has walked freely to first 30 times. Entering Sunday, her 0.9 walks per game ranked 13th in the nation. O’Hara has countered opponents refusing to throw her hittable pitches with patience.
Amidst Syracuse’s busiest inning in the bottom of the fifth, O’Hara remained calm. Alicia Hansen hit a two-run home run to bring the Orange within one before O’Hara walked up to the plate. The senior didn’t need her bat to get on base. She chased a pitch outside before settling in. With the count full, O’Hara watched the ball go high for ball four. Two batters later, Faith Cain knocked in O’Hara to tie the game.
“I was just trying to get on base,” O’Hara said. “I know a lot of teams are careful with me now. I just try to be patient stay relaxed, and swing at good pitches.”
Knowing where the ball is going on the plate pays off for O’Hara. In the seventh inning, she barely connected with the ball but it didn’t matter. The pitch would’ve been a strike, but instead O’Hara dropped the ball shallow in front of the left fielder for a base hit. That “small ball” game has led to .623 on-base percentage.
But with the game was on the line in the ninth inning, O’Hara went back to what earned the respect from opposing pitchers: her power. With Hansen on first base, O’Hara pulled a ball hard down the right field line. Following the standing triple, Jessica Heese knocked O’Hara home.
“Sydney sees the ball really well,” Hansen said. “She’s just someone that when she’s up on the plate if I’m on base or in the dugout I’m very confident in her. I know that she’s going to get hit. Or, no matter what she does she’s going to contribute in some way shape or form to the game.”
O’Hara mixed power with patience to become the best hitter she could. But on Sunday, it just wasn’t enough.
Published on April 23, 2017 at 5:15 pm