KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– In a game that saw two rain delays that combined for over three and a half hours, the Ohio Softball team (38-16) opened play at the 2018 NCAA Knoxville Regional, falling to No. 23/25 James Madison (43-12), 2-1 in the opening round, Friday (May 18) afternoon, inside Sherri Lee Parker Stadium.
"Tough fight," head coach Jodi Hermanek said. "Tough fight. Seven innings of competitive softball, and it is unfortunate to come out on the end that we did, but you know we got to be resilient and short-minded. We got to regroup so that we can be resilient tomorrow so that we can come back. It is still in our grasp. We can still do it."
After an hour and a half rain delay before the game even started, the top of the first inning would see Ohio go down in order, however, Alex Day (Hilliard, Ohio) would drive the ball to deep rightfield, and the game would go to the bottom of the first with the game scoreless.
In the bottom of the frame, starting pitcher Danielle Stiene (Loveland, Ohio) would start the game with a strikeout, and then retire the first two batters to send the game to the second inning with the game still tied at 0-0.
The Bobcats threatened in the top of the second inning. Morgan Geno (Chillicothe, Ohio) led off with a rocket single off the centerfield wall. She then moved to second with a one out passed ball. Still with one out, Michaela Dorsey (Grove City, Ohio) would single through the right side and move to second on the throw, putting runners on second and third with one out. After the second out was recorded, Allie Englant (Long Beach, Calif.) would draw a walk to load the bases, however, JMU would get out of the jam and send the game to the bottom of the frame with it still scoreless.
In the bottom of the second inning, Stiene would send the Dukes down in order, keeping the game scoreless after two full innings.
After James Madison sent Ohio down in order in the top of the third inning, the Bobcats would go back on defense, where JMU would get on the board first. Natalie Cutright would lead the inning off getting hit by a pitch. She then went to second when Morgan Tolle drew a walk, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Then Sara Jubas would reach on a single, scoring Cutright on an error, giving the Dukes the 1-0 lead going to the fourth.
In the top of the fourth inning, Dorsey would reach on a two out single up the middle. However, right after her hit, a severe weather delay would halt play for two hours, with the game resuming at 7:50 p.m. with Dorsey still on first. JMU would record that last out, sending the game to the bottom of the fourth with Ohio trailing, 1-0.
James Madison would threaten to add on in the bottom of the fourth inning. Kierstin Roadcap would lead off with a single to left field. The Ohio defense would then record the next two outs. However, Cutright would then reach on a dropped fly ball and then Madison Naujokas would be hit by the pitch to load the bases. However, Stiene would get the final batter to strikeout swinging, getting out of the jam and sending the game to the top of the fifth with Ohio trailing 1-0.
The Bobcats would strike in the top of the fifth inning. Englant would lead the inning off with a single to left. She would then be erased when Taylor Saxton (Circleville, Ohio) reached on a fielder's choice. Then with one out, Mikayla Cooper (Delaware, Ohio) would crush a single to left, which would be misplayed by the leftfielder, allowing Saxton to score from first, and putting Cooper on second. Cooper would then move to third on a ground out, however, JMU would get the last out, sending the game to the bottom of the fifth with the game tied at 1-1.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, JMU would retake the lead. Tolle would lead off the a single to right center. She would then move to second on a sacrifice bunt. With one out, Kate Gordon would double to left center, scoring Tolle. Gordon would move to third on a wild pitch. However, Stiene would strikeout the next two batters, sending the game to the top of the sixth with JMU leading 2-1.
The Bobcats would get a runner on in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Natalie Alvarez (Long Beach, Calif.) would draw a walk. She would then be replaced on the bases with Deanna Cole (Akron, Ohio). However, JMU would get the next two outs, sending the game to the bottom of the frame with the Dukes leading 2-1.
After Stiene struck out with side in the bottom of the sixth innings, Ohio threatened to tie the game at the top of the seventh inning. With one out, Saxton reached second in a throwing error by the third baseman. However, JMU would get the final two outs and take the game by the final of 2-1.
"I think I was a little tighter than I usually am," Stiene said. "You know it is a bigger stage, so my mechanics were tight. I felt like I was spinning the ball well, but they are a good team. They are going to hit the ball. They took advantages of some missed pitches by me."
At the plate, the Bobcats scored one run on six hits. Dorsey went 2-for-3, while Saxton added a hit and a run scored. Geno, Cooper and Englant all added hits for Ohio.
In the circle, Stiene pitched six innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits, walked one and struck out nine.
The Bobcats will face off against either 10th-seeded Tennessee or Monmouth on Saturday, May 19 at 2:30 p.m. inside Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.