AKRON, Ohio– Highlighted by a seventh-inning grand slam by freshman Charlee Pond, the No. 3 Ohio softball team (34-19) came from behind to defeat the top-seeded Miami (35-14), 7-3, Friday evening at the Mid-American Conference Tournament Semifinals inside Firestone Stadium. The victory advanced the Bobcats to the MAC Championship series to the fourth-straight year. Ohio will play for their second-straight MAC title on Saturday, May 11 at 1 p.m.
"I'm excited," first-year head coach Kenzie Roark said. "All 18 athletes were in this game from the moment that it started until the very end. We've said it all weekend, that without all 18 of us then we don't win these games and I'm really proud of them."
The Bobcats would threaten early in the top of the first inning. Sophomore Allie Englant (Long Beach, Calif.) would double to left center to lead off the game. She would then move to third on a one-out single by senior Alex Day (Hilliard, Ohio) Day would move to second on a ground out, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Unfortunately, the Bobcats would be unable to get a run across, sending the game to the bottom of the inning with the game scoreless.
"This means so much," Day said on the senior class reaching the championship series for all four years. "I was just telling the team today that we've been on nearly every single side possible in this MAC Tournament. We've been in the winner's bracket and lost two games, and we've been coming from the loser's bracket and it's so much better coming from the winner's bracket to get to the championship game. It just means so much to our class."
Miami threatened in the bottom of the second inning, starting with a leadoff double of there own. Then with two outs and a runner still on second, the Miami batter would draw a walk to put runners on first and second. However, starting pitcher Madi McCrady (Brimfield, Ohio) would get the last batter to ground out, ending the threat and sending the game to the second inning with the game still scoreless.
Ohio would get a runner on in the top of the second inning when freshman Caroline Spacek (Beaumont, Texas) would be hit by a pitch. However, the Bobcats would be unable to score, sending the game to the bottom of the second with the game still scoreless.
Miami would score in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI double from Hannah Obrey, giving the RedHawks a 1-0 lead going into the top of the third inning.
Ohio would get a runner on again in the top of the third inning when Englant reached on a single to left center. However, with one out, she would be caught stealing and the Bobcats would be unable to get anything going, sending the game to the bottom of the third with Ohio trailing, 1-0.
Miami would add one in the bottom of the third inning when Ashton Slone scored on a sacrifice fly, giving the RedHawks a 2-0 lead after three full innings of play.
Ohio would try and get a run back in the top of the fourth inning with senior Morgan Geno (Chillicothe, Ohio) drawing a walk to lead off the inning. Freshman Justice Ruggles (Grass Lake, Mich.) would enter to run and move to second on a sacrifice bunt from senior Natalie Alvarez (Long Beach, Calif.). However, the Bobcats would be unable to capitalize, sending the game to the bottom of the fourth trailing, 2-0.
After Miami went down in order in the bottom of the fifth, the Bobcats would strike in the top of the fifth inning. Spacek would lead the inning off with a single, followed by a beautiful bunt single by junior Alexa Holland (Rochester, Ind.). With one out, sophomore Katie Yun (North Canton, Ohio) would reach after being hit by a pitch, bringing up Day would crush a two-RBI single off the left field wall, tying the game at 2-2 going into the bottom of the fifth inning.
After an uneventful top of the sixth for Ohio, the RedHawks would threaten in the bottom of the inning, putting runners on first and second with no outs. However, the Ohio defense would hold steady, getting the next three batters out, ending the threat and send the game to the top of the seventh with the game tied at 2-2.
Ohio took a thundering lead in the top of the seventh inning. Holland led off with a single and then was replaced by senior Deanna Cole (Akron, Ohio) on the bases. Cole moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Englant. Then with two outs, Day doubled to right field to score cole, putting Ohio up 3-2.
However, Ohio was far from done. After Geno drew a walk, Alvarez would reach on a single to load the bases. Then still with two outs, freshman Charlee Pond (Radondo Beach, Calif.) would crush a grand slam to left field, giving Ohio a 7-2 lead. After a pitching change, senior MacKenzie Brunswick (Bellefontaine, Ohio) would reach on a single through the left side. However, the Bobcats would not get another run and would send the game to the bottom of the seventh with a 7-2 lead.
"I think it is really awesome," Pond said. "I've had my low points, but tomorrow is a new day. I'm just really happy that I got it done for my teammates and I'm really thankful for them getting it started. It wouldn't have been the same type of inning or situation without Alex, Nat, Morgan and Alexa."
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Miami would get a run off of a one-out solo homerun by Morgan Lott. However, the Bobcats would get the final two outs of the game to secure the 7-3 victory.
Overall, Ohio scored seven runs on 11 hits and did not commit and error, whole Miami scored three runs on six hits and did not commit an error.
Day went 3-for-4 with two singles, a double, three RBI and one run scored, Englant went 2-for-3 with two singles and Pond added one hit, a grand slam, and four RBI. Holland also added two hits with a run scored, while Alvarez, Brunswick and Spacek also recorded base hits.
In the circle, McCrady pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits, walked two and struck out five.
Up next, the Bobcats will take on the winner of tomorrow morning's elimination game. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. at Firestone Stadium. The Bobcats will face wither No. 7 Toledo, No. 2 Kent State or No. 1 Miami.