AKRON, Ohio –Led by Danielle Stiene's six-inning no hitter and a four-RBI day from Mikayla Cooper, the Ohio softball team (37-15) sealed their spot in the 2018 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship game, after defeating Northern Illinois (23-31), 8-0 in six innings on Friday afternoon. It will mark the third-straight year the top-seeded Ohio has made it to the championship series. The Bobcats will face the winner of No. 2 Ball State and No. 7 NIU tomorrow at 12 p.m.
With Stiene's 26thwin of the year, she has now set the new mark for wins in a single season.
After the Bobcats sent NIU down in order to start the game, Ohio would strike first in the bottom of the frame. Mikayla Cooper (Delaware, Ohio) would lead off the inning with a walk. She would then move to second and then third on a ground out. Then, with two outs, Morgan Geno (Chillicothe, Ohio) would reach first on a deep infield single to the shortstop, scoring Cooper. Geno would then move to third on a single from Natalie Alvarez (Long Beach, Calif.), however, the Bobcats would be unable to add on and the game would go to the second with Ohio leading 1-0.
After the Huskies went down in order in the top of the second inning, Ohio would add on in the bottom of the frame. MacKenzie Brunswick (Bellefontaine, Ohio) led off the inning with a single up the middle. She would be erased from the bases when Allie Englant (Long Beach, Calif.) reached on a fielder's choice. Englant would move to second on a ground out. Then with two outs, Cooper would rope a single through the right side, scoring Englant, giving Ohio the 2-0 lead going to the third.
After NIU went down in order in the top of the third, Ohio would get another runner on in the bottom of the third. Katie Yun (North Canton, Ohio) would lead the inning off with a walk. NIU would then make a pitching change, and then the Huskie defense would record the next three outs to end the inning with Ohio still leading 2-0.
NIU would get their first baserunner of the game in the top of the fourth inning, when with two outs, Sam Schmidt drew a walk. However, starter Stiene (Loveland, Ohio) would get the next batter to pop out to second base, ending the inning and sending the game to the bottom of the frame with the Bobcats leading 2-0.
After NIU went down in order in the top of the fifth inning, Ohio would get a baserunner in the bottom of the frame when Alex Day (Hilliard, Ohio) smashed a single down the right field line. However, she would be caught stealing to send the game to the sixth with the Bobcats leading 2-0.
After Stiene once again sent NIU down in order in the top of the sixth inning, the Bobcats would blow the game open in the bottom of the frame. Yun led the inning off with a single. She then moved to second when Geno drew a walk. Geno would then be replaced on the bases by Deanna Cole (Akron, Ohio). Everyone moved up a base when Alvarez dropped a single into shallow right field, to load the bases with no outs. Alexa Holland (Rochester, Ind.) would then enter the game to run for Alvarez. With one out, Brunswick would register her second hit of the day, a single, scoring Yun to give Ohio a 3-0 lead.
Englant would then record a single up the middle, scoring Cole and Holland, giving Ohio the 5-0 lead with runners on first and second and one out. Taylor Saxton (Circleville, Ohio) would then draw a walk to load the bases again, bringing Cooper to the plate, who would then crank a three-RBI double down the leftfield line to clear the bases and send Ohio to the championship with the 8-0, six-inning victory.
At the plate, Ohio scored eight runs on 10 hits. Cooper went 2-for-3 with a double, run scored, walk and four RBI. Brunswick went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, and Englant went 1-for-2 with two RBI and two runs scored. Yun added a hit and a run scored, while Geno also added a hit and an RBI and Day registered a base hit as well.
In the circle, Stiene (26-6) was dominate, pitching six innings of scoreless, hitless softball. She walked one batter while striking out six and retiring 18 of the 19 batters that she faced. She also tossed only 66 pitches in the victory.
The Bobcats will return to the MAC Softball Tournament Championship series on Saturday, May 12 at 12 p.m. at Firestone Stadium. Ohio will face the winner of No. 2 Ball State and No. 7 NIU, what will be played tomorrow at 10: 30 a.m. Fans can catch all the action on OhioBobcats.com, where Jake Hromada will have the call.