Note: This recap appears in the Friday, May 10 newspaper on Page B1.
AKRON — The Bobcats had the game won, and then had to go win it again.
Freshman Charlee Pond laced a run-scoring single to left in the bottom of the eighth inning to deliver a walk-off, 3-2 win for the Ohio Softball team over Ball State in the opening round of the 2019 Mid-American Conference Tournament on Wednesday.
Ohio (32-19) led 2-0 entering the top of the seventh, but the third-seeded Bobcats needed to regather for extra innings after the Cardinals’ Sarah Venker blasted a two-run, pinch-hit home run.
But Ohio rebounded in the eighth, and sent No. 6 Ball State (34-19) to the loser’s bracket.
“In the game ahead of us, Toledo upset the two-seed, so it’s tournament time and anything can happen,” said Ohio first-year head coach Kenzie Roark. “I told the team before the game that it’s going to require everyone in the dugout, and it did.
“I truly believe that without every single person in the dugout, we don’t win that game.”
With the win, Ohio advances in the winner’s bracket and was scheduled to face No. 7 Toledo (23-25) at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. The Rockets upset No. 2 Kent State, 4-2, earlier on Wednesday.
Ohio’s winning rally in the eighth began with Katie Yun’s leadoff walk from losing BSU reliever Alyssa Rothwell (4-1). After a hit batter, and a sacrifice fly, Yun stood at third base with the winning run.
In stepped Pond, 0-for-3 before the game winner. With two outs, Pond dropped the single inside the left-field line and Yun scored easily.
“I had kind of a rough start at the start of the game,” Pond said. “The most frustrating part of having a bad game isn’t for myself, it’s for my teammates.
“I knew that the pitcher was going to throw me up again if she got ahead in the count, so I did my best to take the low pitches first and it worked in my favor this time.”
The late offense made a winner of Ohio starter Madi McCrady (21-11), who tossed a complete-game gem. McCrady worked all eight innings, gave up just four hits, one earned run and struck out seven.
McCrady has allowed just two earned runs over her last 22 innings of work.
Ohio broke open a scoreless game in the fifth inning when McKenzie Brunswick launched a solo home run to deep left off BSU starter Aeshia Miles (5.1 innings, 4 hits and two runs allowed).
The Bobcats tacked on a second run in the sixth when Morgan Geno’s squeeze-play bunt pushed across what — at the time — felt like the clinching run.
But the Cardinals denied Ohio the regulation win in the seventh. After the leadoff runner reached on an error, Venker — a pinch-hitter with one previous homer all season — caught up to McCrady’s one mistake the entire game and tied it.
Win or lose on Thursday, Ohio is guaranteed to be playing on Friday in either the winner’s bracket final or (with a loss) in the loser’s bracket semifinals.
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: No. 4 NIU (26-24) vs. No. 8 WMU (18-27), 10:30 p.m.
Game 6: No. 5 CMU (22-28-1) vs. No. 1 Miami (34-14), 1 p.m.
Game 7: No. 7 Toledo (23-25) vs. No. 3 Ohio (32-19), 3:30 p.m.
Game 8: No. 2 Kent State (25-23) vs. No. 6 Ball State (34-19), 6 p.m.
Friday, May 10
Game 9: Game 7 loser vs. Game 5 winner, 10:30 a.m.
Game 10: Game 6 loser vs. Game 8 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 11: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 11
Game 13: Game 11 loser vs. Game 12 winner, 10:30 a.m.
Game 14 (Championship round): Game 11 winner vs. Game 13 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 15 (if necessary): Game 14 loser vs. Game 14 winner, 3:30 p.m.