KENNESAW, Ga.– The Ohio softball team (1-1) opened the 2019 season at the Phyllis Rafter Memorial Friday afternoon (Feb.8) splitting the day's games. The Bobcats defeated Eastern Illinois, 9-8, helping earn first-year head coach Kenzie Roark her first victory as the Bobcats' leader. Ohio would fall to Chattanooga, 6-3, later in the day.
GAME ONE: Ohio 9, Eastern Illinois 8
It didn't take long for the Bobcats' offense to pick up where it left off in 2018. Sophomore Allie Englant (Long Beach, Calif.) led the game off by reaching first on an error, however, sophomore Katie Yun (North Canton, Ohio) would replace her at first after a fielder's choice. Freshman Charlee Pond (Redondo Beach, Calif.) would begin her Bobcat career with a single in her first at bat, before senior Morgan Geno (Chillicothe, Ohio) would draw a walk to load the bases with one out. Senior Alex Day (Hilliard, Ohio) would then line out to left, scoring Yun from first, giving Ohio a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the first.
After three-up, three-down innings from both EIU and Ohio, the Panthers would make some noise in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Kendyl Mckeough would reach on a fielding error and then move to second when Taylor Jones drew a walk, putting runners on first and second. However, starting pitcher, sophomore Madi McCrady (Brimfield, Ohio) would get the next two batters to fly out, ending the threat and sending the game to the third with the Bobcats still up 1-0.
Ohio would add on in the top of the third inning when Englant would lead off with a bunt single, before advancing to third with two-straight wild pitches. Englant would then score on Pond's second single of the day. Pond would then move to second when Geno singled to left. Then with two outs and runners on first and second, Pond and Geno would both score when senior Natalie Alvarez (Long Beach, Calif.) would reach on another Panthers' fielding error, giving the Bobcats a 4-0 lead entering the bottom of the frame.
Eastern Illinois would go on to cut the Bobcats lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the third. Then, after Ohio would leave one runner on in the top of the fourth inning, the Panthers would go on to tie the game at 4-4, scoring three runs on three hits going into the top of the fifth inning.
After the Bobcats would go down in in order in the top of the fifth inning, Eastern Illinois would take a one-run lead on a two-out fielder's choice. Junior Kendall Meeks (Guysville, Ohio) would get the last Panther batter to strike out, sending the game to the top of the sixth with the Bobcats trailing 5-4.
Ohio wouldn't trail for long. Alvarez would lead the inning off with a double to right field, bringing in senior Deanna Cole (Akron, Ohio) to pinch run for Alvarez. Cole would then score when senior MacKenzie Brunswick (Bellefontaine, Ohio) would register a double of her own. However, Brunswick would be out trying to stretch the double into the triple. Then with two outs, freshman Taytum Hargrave (Warsaw, Ind.) would reach on an error and then promptly steal second. Englant would then single to right field, scoring Hargrave and putting the Bobcats up 6-5 going into the bottom of the frame.
After Eastern Illinois would leave a runner on in the bottom of the sixth, the Bobcats added on to their score in the top of the seventh inning. With one out, Geno would draw a walk and then be replaced by junior Alexa Holland (Rochester, Ind.) on the bases. Holland would then move to third when Day singled to second. Day would then steal second, putting runners on second and third. Alvarez would then drive Day home with a sacrifice fly to right, setting up Brunswick's two-out RBI single up the middle, scoring day and putting Ohio up 8-5. Ohio would add on one more when Brunswick would score when Englant reached on a fielding error, sending Ohio to the bottom of the seventh with a 9-5 lead.
Eastern Illinois would threaten in the bottom of the seventh inning, loading the bases with no outs. Freshman Mackensie Kohl (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) would enter the game, with the Panthers scoring twice on ground out and once on a single up the middle. Kohl would get the last batter of the game to pop out, saving the Bobcats' 9-8 victory.
Overall, Ohio scored nine runs on nine hits and had one error, while Eastern Illinois recorded eight runs on nine hits and had six errors. Englant went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Pond when 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Brunswick added two timely hits, a double and a single, with two RBI and a run scored. Geno added a hit and a run scored, while Day had a single, a run scored and an RBI. Alvarez added a double and an RBI, while Hargrave, Cole and Holland all scored runs for the Bobcats.
In the circle, McCrady got the start and the win, pitching 4.1 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, walked five and struck out three. Meeks pitched 1.2 innings, allowing two runs on one hit, stuck out two and walked two, while Kohl earned her first save in a Bobcat uniform, pitching one inning, allowing one run on one hit and walking one.
GAME TWO: Chattanooga 6, Ohio 3
The Bobcats got on the board first in the top of the first when Yun doubled to left center with one out. She then scored when Geno crushed a two-out single to third, putting Ohio up 1-0 after the opening frame.
However, Chattanooga would come out and take a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Ohio would come back in the top of the second and try to start to chip away when Brunswick led the inning off with a single up the middle. However, the Bobcats would be unable to move her home, sending the game to the bottom of the second down 4-1.
After Ohio would leave Englant on second in the top of the third, Chattanooga would add one more in the bottom of the frame, taking a 5-1 lead after three. The Bobcats would go down in order in the top of the fourth, before Chattanooga would add one more run, taking a 6-1 lead.
Ohio would threaten in the top of the fifth inning when freshman Caroline Spacek (Beaumont, Texas) singled to center. She would be erased from the bases when Englant hit into a one-out fielder's choice. She would move to second when Yun drew a walk, however the Bobcats would be unable to move the runners home, sending the game to the bottom of the fifth with Ohio still trailing 6-1.
After a scoreless bottom of the fifth and sixth inning from both teams, Ohio would try to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh inning. Spacek would lead the inning off with a single through the left side. Then with one out, Englant would reach on a bunt single to the pitcher, putting runners on first and second. With two outs, Pond would draw a walk, bringing up Geno who would crush a two-RBI single, cutting the UTC lead to 6-3. However, the Bobcats would be unable to finish the comeback, falling 6-3.
Overall, Ohio scored three runs on eight hits with three errors, while Chattanooga scored six runs on eight hits with no errors.
Geno went 2-for-4 with three RBI, Englant went 2-for-4 with one runs scored, while Spacek went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Yun added a double and a run scored, while Brunswick also registered a hit.
In the circle, junior Desirae Villanueva (Surrey, British Columbia) got the start, pitching 0.1 innings, allowing four runs on one hit while walking two. Kohl entered the game in the first inning, pitching 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out four.
The Bobcats return to action at the 2019 Phyllis Rafter Memorial on Saturday, Feb. 9 when the Bobcats take on Morehead State at 12:30, followed by host Kennesaw St. at 5:30 p.m.