By Tim Glon
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Senior Kirsten Lightel (Tallmadge) threw a 6-hit shutout to lead the Ohio Northern softball team to a 1-0 victory over Case Western Reserve in the first game of the NCAA III Softball Notre Dame, Indiana Regional Tournament on a chilly Friday afternoon at the Purcell Athletic Fields.
The Polar Bears (31-9 overall) advance in the winner's bracket on Saturday at 11 am and will face No. 19-ranked Saint Mary's (Ind.), who defeated Mount Aloysius (Pa.) 6-1 in Friday's second game.
The Spartans (31-9 overall) move to the loser's bracket and will face Mount Aloysius (Pa.) in an elimination game on Saturday at 1:30 pm.
"We were ready to play from the beginning and put pressure on them early on," ONU head coach Jackie Price said. "In tournament play it's important to win the first game - it sets the tone for the entire weekend."
Ohio Northern got on the board first when sophomore Alicia Swierz (Deerfield/Southeast) delivered a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the third to score senior Miranda Huddle (Versailles) to make it 1-0.
Case threatened in the home half of the fifth with runners on second and third with only one out.
But Huddle threw out the runner at home on a ground ball to second for the second out and Lightel induced a pop out to short to get out of the jam.
"We were only ahead by a run, so I knew it was important to keep them from scoring," Huddle said. "When the ball came to me, I made sure to keep my head down, field the ball and then went home with it and we got the out."
Huddle also led the ONU offense with two of the team's three base hits in the game.
Lightel allowed just a two-out single in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh to close out the game.
She finished the game with six strikeouts and became the first Polar Bear in school history to eclipse the 500k mark with 504 in her career.
"I am very blessed to be the first ONU player to have 500 strikeouts," Lightel said. "I'm not really concerned about the strikouts - I'm really focused on making good pitches. I trust our defense at every position so I'm just trying to make good pitches and it has worked out well."