The first day of the MAC Softball Tournament went off without a hitch. We were not so lucky on the second day. A deluge of rain fell overnight and in the morning, and it took several hours after the rain stopped in order to get the field ready for play.
In fact, the first game did not start until 4:00 p.m., with the last of the four games beginning seven hours later.
The day included a lot of power, with batters from Akron and Kent State launching multiple home runs, and some great pitching, including a 14-strikeout one-hitter. Top seed CMU got back on its feet to advance in the tournament, and Akron moved on with a run-rule victory. Meanwhile, Ohio and Kent State set up a championship play-in game on Friday. The winner goes to the title game, the loser heads back to the loser’s bracket.
Below are synopses for each of Thursday’s four games...
Rachael Knapp and the Chippewas rebounded nicely from their Wednesday loss with a 3-0 win over the Cardinals in a delayed opener for the second day of the tournament. Knapp recorded her 22nd win and 11th shutout of the season by facing only four batters over the minimum and earning ten strikeouts.
However, Knapp’s day did not develop without some drama. In the first inning, Rachel Houck doubled for Ball State, then Danae King worked a walk before Knapp escaped with a swinging strikeout of Janae Hogg. Houck smacked another base hit to lead off the fourth, but Knapp struck out two and induced a pop up. In the sixth, Maddy Labrador led off with a double. Knapp kept a Houck drive to right inside the park, then struck out King to keep the Cardinals scoreless.
CMU’s offense continued its dormancy against Ball State starter Aeshia Miles, who allowed just one hit through three innings. Miles was replaced by Alyssa Rothwell in the fourth, and she set down CMU in order. However, the Chippewas finally broke through in the fifth. Taylor Lewallen opened the frame with a walk. Rothwell retired the next two batters before facing pinch-hitter Sydney Heath. Heath responded by cracking a homer to right center for a 2-0 lead. The Chippewas added an insurance run in the sixth after Rothwell hit and walked a pair of batters. Darcie Huber relieved Rothwell but gave up a double to Morgan Gardner that drove in a run.
CMU advances in the loser’s bracket and will play the loser of the Ohio-Northern Illinois game on Friday morning. Ball State is eliminated from the tournament.
The Golden Flashes moved to within one win of the championship game with an emphatic 9-3 victory over the Broncos. KSU took an early lead, withstood a mid-game comeback effort, then put the contest away in the seventh. However, the story of the tournament so far is one player: Ronnie Ladines.
Ladines carried the Flashes with another all-around outstanding game. She pitched a second straight complete game and allowed only one earned run while scattering five hits and just one walk. In her two wins, she’s pitched 14 innings with 14 strikeouts while allowing just six hits to go with that one walk and one earned run. Ladines’ hitting may actually be more impressive. She crushed a pair of home runs and drove in four. In total, she is 4-for-7 with three homers, three runs and five runs batted in during her two games.
KSU opened the game with a run in the first on a pair of singles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt. They added three more runs in the second frame. Ladines led off with a solo homer and added runs on a fielder’s choice and an errant throw from center field. Ladines held the 4-0 lead by starting with three perfect innings from the mound.
WMU finally broke through when Ivy Schaaf led off the fourth with a double. Two more hits and an error led to three runs before Ladines got Brooke Wyman to pop out to shortstop to maintain a 4-3 lead. The Broncos did not seriously threaten again. Led by a three-run jack from Ladines, Kent State scored five in the seventh for the final 9-3 margin.
KSU will now play the winner of the Ohio/Northern Illinois game on Friday for a spot in Saturday’s championship game. Western Michigan drops to the loser’s bracket, where they will face the winner of the Akron-Miami contest.
The Bobcats scored in the first inning and did not need to do anything further, as starting pitcher Savannah Dorsey carried them to within one win of the MAC championship game thanks to a 1-0 shutout of the Huskies.
Dorsey (22-6) was virtually unhittable from the outset. She struck out two batters in the first inning and two more in the second. When she was tired of that, she struck out the side in the third. NIU’s only offensive threat came in the fourth inning. Bekah Harnish worked a one-out walk to become the first Huskie baserunner. Then, with two outs, shortstop Kali Kossakowski sent a single to center that allowed Harnish to move to third. However, Harnish was stranded on third when Kossakowski was caught stealing second base.
Dorsey came back to strike out the side in the fifth and sixth innings. She closed the game by allowing her defense to make two outs before pinch hitter Rebecca Rupard struck out swinging to end the game. Dorsey finished with 14 strikeouts of the 23 batters she faced while allowing only one hit. In two tournament games, she’s pitched 14 innings with no runs allowed. She’s tallied 21 strikeouts while giving up only five hits and two walks. Her earned run average is now just 1.14.
Ohio’s only run came in the first when Mikayla Cooper led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. She scored on an errant throw from the second baseman after a Morgan Geno ground ball. The run was enough to put the Bobcats into a Friday afternoon contest against Kent State in the winner’s bracket. The Bobcats-Flashes winner will play for the MAC championship on Saturday.
Game 8: #7 Akron 10, #6 Miami 2 (Miami eliminated)
The Zips earned a run-rule victory and eliminated the RedHawks from the tournament with a 10-2 decision in Thursday’s final contest. Akron scored four times in the first two innings and never looked back, as pitcher Lexie Handley allowed only a two-run home run.
Savannah Fruin began the scoring with a home run to center field in the first inning. The Zips added three more in the second, thanks in large part to two walks and a hit-by-pitch from Miami starter Shannon Hohman. Fruin capped the rally with a two-run single to center.
Michaela Schlattman halved the deficit for the RedHawks with a two-run jack to right center in the third, but the joy did not last beyond Akron’s next at-bat. The Zips got those two runs back when Fruin slammed another home run, this time to left. Akron added four more in the fifth for a 10-2 lead, and the game ended when Handley retired Miami in order in the bottom half.
Fruin went 3-for-4 with two home runs and five runs batted in, while Ashley Sims singled and scored twice. She also drove in two runs. Handley finished with six strikeouts in her five-inning victory. Akron will now play Western Michigan on Friday afternoon for an opportunity to advance in the tournament.
2017 MAC Softball Tournament Schedule (All times listed are Eastern)
Wednesday, May 10
Game 1: #4 Kent State 4, #5 Ball State 1
Game 2: #8 Western Michigan 3, #1 Central Michigan 1
Game 3: #2 Ohio 2, #7 Akron 0
Game 4: #3 Northern Illinois 5, #6 Miami 4
Thursday, May 11
Game 5: #1 Central Michigan 3, #5 Ball State 0 (Ball State eliminated)
Game 6: #4 Kent State 9, #8 Western Michigan 3
Game 7: #2 Ohio 1, #3 Northern Illinois 0
Game 8: #7 Akron 10, #6 Miami 2 (Miami eliminated)
Friday, May 12
(10:30 a.m.) Game 9: #1 Central Michigan vs. #3 Northern Illinois (elimination game)
(1:00 p.m.) Game 10: #7 Akron vs. #8 Western Michigan (elimination game)
(3:30 p.m.) Game 11: #2 Ohio vs. #4 Kent State
(6:00 p.m.) Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner (elimination game)
Saturday, May 13
(10:30 a.m.) Game 13 – Game 11 loser vs. Game 12 winner (elimination game)
(1:00 p.m.) Game 14 – Game 11 winner vs. Game 13 winner (Championship game)
Note: if the Game 13 winner also wins Game 14, then a winner-take-all championship game will be played 30 minutes following Game 14.