ATHENS, Ohio— The Ohio softball team (14-12, 3-0 MAC) wrapped up the first weekend of Mid-American Conference action Saturday afternoon, downing MAC West foe Central Michigan (9-15, 0-3 MAC), 5-1, and sweeping the three-game series at the Ohio Softball Field.
Freshman Madi McCrady (Brimfield, Ohio) started off strong, striking out the first three Chippewa batters of the game. In the bottom of the inning, junior Natalie Alvarez (Long Beach, Calif.) hit a single to left center field, scoring Mikayla Cooper (Delaware, Ohio). Redshirt junior Michaela Dorsey (Grove City, Ohio) followed with double, allowing Alvarez to cross the plate, giving Ohio the early 2-0 lead.
"We've been challenging ourselves in a lot of our pre-conference games to be better at getting on the board first and not having to be the 'Comeback Kids' in some wins," said head coach Jodi Hermanek. "So to come out here in three games against Central Michigan and lead the board with dominance and with power, that's huge for us. It sets the tone, right away."
CMU led off the second inning with a single from Morgan Gardner, but Ohio responded with a double play from redshirt senior Taylor Saxton (Circleville, Ohio). The Bobcats attempted to add onto their 2-0 lead, but the Chippewas' defense held them, keeping the score 2-0 after two innings.
After McCrady had another three-up, three-down inning in the top of the third, Ohio loaded the bases with two outs. CMU pitcher Lauren Vaccaro walked in junior Alex Day (Hilliard, Ohio), putting the Bobcats up 3-0.
The Chippewas regrouped and came into the fourth inning hot, advancing leadoff batter Lacy Tolfree to third base with a single, sacrifice bunt and stolen base. Erika Underwood roped a RBI single to center field and CMU put their first run of the game on the board. Vaccaro continued to work in the bottom of the fourth and prevented the Bobcats from scoring.
After a scoreless fifth, sophomore Kendall Meeks (Guysville, Ohio) entered the game for McCrady. Freshman Allie Englant (Long Beach, Calif.) led off the bottom of the sixth, reaching first on a slow ground ball to shortstop. Saxton made the first out, but advanced Englant to second. Next, Cooper smoked a homerun over the left center field fence, putting Ohio ahead 5-1. CMU's Samantha Howell entered the circle and brought the inning to an end.
The Chippewas attempted to make some noise in the top of the seventh, but the Bobcats their second ground ball double play to end the game, sending Ohio home with the 5-1 victory and the three-game sweep of CMU.
In the circle, McCrady pitched five complete innings, striking out four, walking none and allowing one earned run. Meeks pitched the final two innings; she walked one, struck out one, and gave up one hit and no runs and picked up her second save of the weekend.
"We were talking about being more on point, being more sharp today—that's the one thing as a pitching staff I know we work on," McCrady said. "We came into these games with a lot of leadoff walks. This week we've worked on and practiced getting those pitches down and leading in the count."
At the plate, Cooper led the way going 1-for-3 with a two RBI homerun in the bottom of the fifth. Alvarez had a 1-for-2 day with an RBI and Dorsey went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Up next, the Bobcats return to the OSF on Tuesday, March 27 to face Pittsburgh at 5 p.m. This weekend they will travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan to play Eastern Michigan in a three-game series starting at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 30.