The Kent State Golden Flashes won the 2017 MAC Softball Tournament in spectacular fashion on Saturday. They needed three wins, including two against the Ohio Bobcats team that sent KSU to the loser’s bracket on Friday, and they got all three thanks to fantastic pitching and timely offense.
The championship is just the third for the Flashes and their first since 2008. They are the first MAC team to capture the title with three straight win-or-die victories since Miami in 2012. Kent State will now advance to the 2017 NCAA Tournament; they will learn their regional destination tomorrow when the NCAA announces the 64-team field. The 16 four-team regionals are held May 19-21, with the best-of-three Super Regionals on the following weekend.
KSU pitcher Ronnie Ladines was the star of the tournament. She started five of the team’s six games and finished with just five earned runs allowed (eight total) in 33 innings while striking out 34 with just six walks. In addition, she went 9-for-17 at the plate with two doubles, four home runs, seven RBI and five runs scored. She reached base in 13 of her 21 plate appearances for an on-base percentage of .619.
Ohio’s Savannah Dorsey sparkled during the week, ultimately throwing 28 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings before finally giving up a run in the eighth inning of today’s first game against KSU. For the week, she allowed four runs and struck out 39 batters in 35 innings, 33 of which were shutout frames.
Below are recaps of the final day’s games:
The Golden Flashes punched their ticket to the MAC championship game with an emphatic 9-3 victory over the Huskies on Saturday morning. Six different Kent State players registered multiple hits, and the pitching staff allowed just one run and three hits over the final four innings.
Maddy Grimm gave the Flashes an early lead with a first inning home run. That 1-0 edge stood until the bottom of the second, as both teams left multiple runners on base in the first frame. NIU broke through in their second turn at the plate. With one out, the Huskies worked a walk and got three straight hits, the last of which was a two-run double to the left-center gap by Jessica Rio.
Kent State took firm control of the game with a six-run outburst in the third inning. Grimm doubled with one out and scored the tying run on another double by Holly Speers. Speers moved to third on a single by pitcher Ronnie Ladines, then scored on a fielder’s choice grounder. KSU also received a pair of RBI singles from Emily Dobbin and pinch-hitter Allie Luther, as well as a two-run double from Vanessa Scoarste. The Flashes’ final two runs of the game crossed in the following frame, when Jen Cader laced a two-out, two-run double to left center.
NIU scored one final run with three straight hits in the sixth, but the threat died with runners on the corners when Jenny Van Geertry lined into a double play. The Huskies went down in order in the seventh to end their season.
Ladines started and threw four innings, allowing two runs and five hits. In four tournament starts, Ladines has allowed just five earned runs in 25 innings. She is also 8-for-12 at the plate with four runs and five RBI. Janel Hayes allowed just one run and three hits in three innings of relief. Tara Thacker pitched three scoreless innings of relief for the Huskies.
What do you do if you’re a freshman pitcher who is called upon to save your team’s season, when you’ve only appeared in 13 games all year? What do you do when you’re that pitcher, and your opponent has not allowed a single run in three tournament games?
You go out and pitch seven scoreless innings, which keeps your team in the game long enough for them to score a run and keep their season alive.
In a game you just couldn’t script, Kent State scratched and clawed until they had beaten Ohio 1-0 in eight innings. Time and again, they threatened Bobcat star Savannah Jo Dorsey with runners. Time and again, Dorsey rose to the occasion to keep her scoreless inning streak alive; it ultimately reached 28 2/3 innings. Despite the pressure, Madi Huck matched Dorsey pitch-for-pitch, until Dorsey finally gave way.
Kent State left a runner on base six times during the regulation seven innings, including runners in scoring position in the second and third inning. On both of those occasions, Dorsey struck out a batter swinging to end the inning. Meanwhile, Huck stranded a pair of Ohio runners in the first. Then, in the fourth, the Bobcats put runners on second and third with two out. Huck forced Madison Clayton to fly out softly to end that threat. She also worked around a walk in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Finally, in the top of the eighth, Kent State broke through. With two out, Maddy Grimm laced a solid single to left. Holly Speers then dumped a fly ball just shy of the left-center wall for a gap double, which easily scored Grimm for a 1-0 lead. Ronnie Ladines came in for the save and retired the top of Ohio’s lineup in order.
Huck finished with only five hits and two walks allowed over seven scoreless innings. Dorsey pitched all eight frames for Ohio and gave up one run on five hits while earning seven strikeouts. She has now allowed just one run and 16 hits in 29 innings. She has 37 strikeouts during the tournament.
Kent State completed an amazing day of softball with an emphatic 3-0 win over Ohio in the winner-take-all MAC championship game.
The Golden Flashes earned their only runs of the game against Savannah Jo Dorsey in the first inning. Those would be all they would need. With one out, Hunter Brancifort blasted just her third home run of the season over the left field fence to give KSU an early 1-0 lead. Maddy Grimm then grounded out to second, and Holly Speers worked a two-out walk. That brought Ronnie Ladines to the plate. Ladines dominated the tournament and capped her effort by smashing a two-run home run to left center, her fourth dinger of the tournament and 11th of the season.
KSU threatened again in the third inning when they loaded the bases with one out. Dorsey got out of the jam by inducing a pair of grounders, but it did not matter. Ladines never allowed Ohio’s offense to get going. Mikayla Cooper led off the game with a double, but Ladines struck out the final two batters of the inning to strand Cooper at second. The Bobcats managed only three other baserunners after that, and none reached scoring position. Ladines clinched the championship with a pair of grounders and a strikeout in a perfect seventh.
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
Game 9: #3 Northern Illinois 3, #1 Central Michigan 0 (CMU eliminated)
Game 10: #8 Western Michigan 7, #7 Akron 5 (Akron eliminated)
Game 11: #2 Ohio 2, #4 Kent State 0
Game 12: #3 Northern Illinois 15, #8 Western Michigan 9 (WMU eliminated)
Saturday, May 13
Game 13: #4 Kent State 9, #3 Northern Illinois 3 (NIU eliminated)
Game 14: #4 Kent State 1, #2 Ohio 0 (8 innings)
Game 15: #4 Kent State 3, #2 Ohio 0 (Kent State wins MAC Championship)