AKRON — The Ohio University softball team has reached the championship round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament for a program-best four straight years.
Fittingly enough, the Bobcats latest trip to the final came via a grand slam — a four-run scoring blast on a hit to covered all four bases.
Freshman infielder Charlee Pond belted a seventh-inning grand slam to power Ohio past Miami, 7-3, in a winner’s bracket final on Friday afternoon at Firestone Stadium. The Bobcats (34-19) clinched a spot in Saturday’s championship round, and will have to win one game to win the event in back-to-back years for the first time in program history.
“I’m just really proud of this team,” said Ohio first-year head coach Kenzi Rourke. “They’ve made me look pretty good so I appreciate that.
“Really, I’m just so excited,” she added. “(The MAC Championship Tournament) has lived up to its name for sure.”
Miami (35-15) was the regular-season MAC champion and the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The RedHawks won both meetings against Ohio — by a combined 15-1 score — but fell into the loser’s bracket after the Bobcats scored seven runs in the final three innings.
Ohio will await an opponent for the championship round, which will begin at approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday. Miami will face either Kent State or Toledo — which played in the loser’s bracket final on Friday night — on Saturday morning. That winner — either Miami or Kent/Toledo — will then have to win consecutive games against Ohio on Saturday to win the championship.
Miami had not allowed a run in the tournament on its way to winning its first two game in the event — 2-0 and 7-0 — and led Ohio 2-0 after four innings on Friday. Hannah Obrey laced a run-scoring double to right-center in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. In the third, Kara Leckinger’s sacrifice fly to right doubled the lead to 2-0.
But Ohio starter Madi McCrady — who has pitched all 22 innings for the Bobcats in the tournament — settled in. McCrady, now 23-11 on the year, retired 11 of the next 13 batters she faced and worked out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the sixth. McCrady finished with three runs allowed on six hits, struck out five and walked two.
Miami lifted starter Brianna Pratt after two innings, with a 1-0 lead, and gave the game over to Courtney Vierstra (19-8). Vierstra breezed into the fifth before the Bobcats reset the game.
In the fifth, Caroline Spacek and Alexa Holland reached on consecutive singles. When Katie Run was hit by a pitch, the bases were loaded with one out.
Senior Alex Day then tied it 2-2 with a rocket-shot single off the wall in left.
The game remained 2-2 until the seventh. Holland started the winning rally with a second-straight bunt single, and Day came through with a two-out, RBI double to right-center that pitch the Bobcats up 3-2.
After a walk, and then an infield single, Pond cleared the bases with her home to deep left to make it 7-2.
“That was a really exciting moment but it was a team win overall,” said Pond, who also had the game-winning, walk-off RBI hit in Ohio’s 3-2 win on Wednesday. “Alexa got it started with the bunt, (Day) was clutch all day today.
“I’m just thankful Coach Ro’ has continued to have faith in me in this tournament.”
Miami got a one-out solo home run from Morgan Lott in the bottom of the seventh but would get no closer.
Ohio 7, Miami 3
Ohio — Madi McCrady and Natalie Alvarez.
Miami — Brianna Pratt, Courtney Vierstra (3), Taylor Rathe (7) and Kara Leckinger.
WP — McCrady (23-11; LP — Vierstra (19-8).
2019 MAC Softball Tournament
All games at Firestone Stadium, Akron
Wednesday, May 8
Game 1: Central Michigan 6, Northern Illinois 5
Game 2: Miami 2, Western Michigan 0
Game 3: Toledo 4, Kent State 2
Game 4: Ohio 3, Ball State 2 (8 innings)
Thursday, May 9
Game 5: Northern Illinois 8, Western Michigan 0 (WMU eliminated)
Game 6: Miami 7, Central Michigan 0
Game 7: Ohio 7, Toledo 1
Friday, May 10
Game 8: Kent State 4, Ball State 1 (BSU eliminated)
Game 9: Toledo 11, Northern Illinois 6 (NIU eliminated)
Game 10: Kent State 3, Central Michigan 0 (CMU eliminated)
Game 11: Ohio 7, Miami 3
Game 12: No. 7 Toledo (24-26) vs. No. 2 Kent State (27-23), late
Saturday, May 11
Game 13: No. 1 Miami (35-15) vs. Game 12 winner, 10:30 a.m.
Game 14 (Championship round): No. 3 Ohio (34-19) vs. Game 13 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 15 (if necessary): Game 14 loser vs. Game 14 winner, 3:30 p.m.