KNOXVILLE, Tenn. –Unable to overcome a three-run inning in the top of the third, the Ohio softball team (40-17) saw their magical run at the 2018 NCAA Knoxville Regional come to an end, falling to No. 10 Tennessee (48-12), 5-1, inside Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
The Bobcats wrapped up the season with an overall record of 40-17, it is the first time in program history that the Bobcats have recorded back-to-back 40-win seasons.
"Obviously, it's not the way that you would want a ride like this to end," head coach Jodi Hermanek said. "I thought we played competitive. Once we scored first, I thought that took a big nerve block out of our system, so we could just settle in and continue with our approach. It was a good game, a good matchup, and Tennessee competed hard and got some timely hitting at the right time."
In the top of the first inning, Tennessee would get runner on, when Aubrey Leach led off with an infield bunt single. She would then move to second on a walk by Jenna Holcomb, putting runners on first and second with no outs. However, Allie Englant (Long Beach, Calif.) would rob Meghan Gregg with a diving catch in foul territory. Starter Danielle Stiene (Loveland, Ohio) would retire the next two batters and send the game to the bottom of the first with the game still scoreless.
After Ohio went down in order in the bottom of the first inning. Tennessee would get another runner on in the top of the second. With one out, Amanda Ayala would draw a walk and then move to second on a passed ball. However, Stiene and the Ohio defense would get the next two outs, sending the game to the bottom of the frame with the game tied at 0-0.
Ohio would strike first in the bottom of the second inning. Katie Yun (North Canton, Ohio) led the inning off with a single through the left side. She would be erased from the bases when Natalie Alvarez (Long Beach, Calif.) reached on a fielder's choice. Then with two outs, MacKenzie Brunswick (Bellefontaine, Ohio) would reach on a single to shallow center. Deanna Cole (Akron, Oho), would enter the game to run for Alvarez at second. The substitution would pay off, and Englant would deliver and RBI single through the left side, scoring Cole, giving Ohio the 1-0 lead going to the third inning.
"My first at bat I saw a beautiful pitch, and I should have hit it," Englant said. "I did not think I was going to see another pitch like that, but the second pitch was exactly like that and I knew with a good pitcher like that I wasn't going to get too many opportunities like that. So, I just tried to keep it simple and hit it past the infield."
Tennessee would take the lead in the top of the third inning. With one out, Holcomb would reach on a single. She would then move to second when Gregg singled to left. UT would load the bases on a single from Chelsea Seggem. Still with one out, Tennessee would take a 2-1 lead on a fielding error. After Mikayla Cooper (Delaware, Ohio) made a snag in foul territory for out number two, the pinch runner on first would get in a run down that allowed Seggem to score, giving the Lady Vols the 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the third.
After Ohio went down in order in the bottom of the third, Stiene would come back and send Tennessee down in order in the top of the fourth inning.
Tennessee would get runners on again in the top of the fifth inning. Leach would lead off with a single. However, Brooke Rice (Mason, Ohio) would fire down the second and catch her stealing for the first out of the inning. It was only the third time Leach had been caught stealing. Holcomb would then single, however, the Ohio defense would get the next two outs, sending the game to the bottom of the fifth with the Lady Vols leading 3-1.
Ohio would threaten in the bottom of the fifth inning. Michaela Dorsey (Grove City, Ohio) would single to leftfield to lead off the inning. Then with one out, Dorsey would go to third when Englant reached on a fielder's choice and there was a fielding error. However, Englant would be thrown out at second trying to advance a base. Then with Dorsey on third with two outs, the UT defense would register the last out, sending the game to the top of the sixth inning with the Bobcats trailing 3-1.
Tennessee would add on in the top of the sixth inning. With two outs, Ayala would reach on an error. She would then move to third on a single from Abby Lockman. The two UT base runners would score on a single from pinch hitter Haley Bearden. Stiene would get the next batter to strikeout looking, but Tennessee would lead 5-1 going into the bottom of the frame.
After Stiene would send UT down in order in the top of the seventh inning, Ohio would try to rally in the bottom of the frame, but would be unable to do so, falling to the Lady Vols, 5-1.
At the plate, Ohio scored one run on four hits. Englant had one hit and an RBI, while Dorsey, Brunswick and Yun all had hits for Ohio, while Cole scored Ohio's run.
In the circle, Stiene (29-8) pitched seven innings, allowing five runs, one earned, walked two and struck out three batters.
"It was a hard-fought game," Dorsey said. "It's tough to be on the side of it that we are, but we took our program further than in the past years and just to get here is an amazing feeling. Now we know what it's like so we can make progress in the future."
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