Softball reaches OAC Tournament championship game, but hot-hitting Otterbein captures title with 13-7 victory

Softball reaches OAC Tournament championship game, but hot-hitting Otterbein captures title with 13-7 victory

By Blake Moore

NEW CONCORD — Junior Brady Guest (Convoy/Crestview) smashed a two-run home run, propelling second-seeded Ohio Northern past third-seeded Baldwin Wallace 4-2 in game five to reach the Ohio Athletic Conference championship game at Donna J. Newberry Field on Sunday.

However, the Polar Bears ran into a hot-hitting Otterbein squad in the title game, who claimed the OAC Tournament crown with a 13-7 victory.

"It was an interesting weekend - we were unsure when we would play given the weather," head coach Jackie Price stated. Our athletes came out and stayed focused, and I am very proud of their effort this weekend."

With Sunday's results, ONU concludes the season with a 23-19 overall record. The runner-up finish marks the sixth time in program history Ohio Northern has finished second in the OAC Tournament.

The Yellow Jackets ended third in the tournament after bowing out with a 33-10 overall record.

With the win, Otterbein improved to 24-15 on the season and received the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament next weekend.

Following the tournament, seniors Hailee Loughman (Brookville) and Kaitlin Surdej (Lancaster, N.Y./Central) and freshman Rachel Hish (Gainesville, Va./Patriot) were named to the Ohio Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team.

Game five between Ohio Northern and Baldwin Wallace was suspended Saturday afternoon with one out in the top of the fourth inning and resumed Sunday at 1 p.m.

On Saturday, Northern bolted out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Following a leadoff walk from Hish and a BW fielding miscue, junior Gabby Stewart (Union, Ky./St. Henry) advanced Hish to third with a long fly ball to center field. The Yellow Jackets mishandled a fly ball in right field on the following play, allowing Hish to plate the opening run.

The home side leveled the score after the Yellow Jackets' strung together three consecutive hits to kick off the second inning, including an RBI double from senior Abbie Thompson. In the following at-bat, classmate Alexis Boledovic produced an RBI ground out to put BW in front 2-1.

From there, the two offenses were held scoreless until play was suspended in the fourth inning. The Polar Bears were batting with a runner at first base and one out when the delay was announced.

The Polar Bears gathered all the momentum in the fifth inning after hanging three runs on the board. Loughman laced a ball up the middle to even the scoreline, and Guest drilled a two-run home run over the left field fence, her second blast of the weekend, for a 4-2 advantage.

Despite the loss, Baldwin Wallace out-hit the Polar Bears 9-6 in the contest. However, ONU was able to capitalize on three Yellow Jacket miscues for its four scores.

Loughman led the offense with an impressive three-for-four showing at the plate with an RBI. Meanwhile, Guest led ONU with a team-high two RBI via the long ball.

In the circle, Surdej tossed a solid seven innings. She allowed just two earned runs for her 15th victory this season.

During the championship game, Otterbein utilized the power of three home runs to claim its second OAC Tournament title in program history with a 13-7 triumph over ONU.

The Cardinals hung five runs on the board in their opening at-bat on five hits, including a three-run home run and a two-run home run.

Ohio Northern answered immediately with four runs in the second inning via RBI singles from junior Jordan Cloonan (Kirtland/Cornerstone Christian), Hish, and junior Alicia Swierz (Deerfield/Southeast).

Otterbein's offense began rolling once again in the third inning with five more runs on five hits.

The Polar Bears attempted a comeback after scoring one in the fourth and two more in the fifth, but the Cardinals added two insurance runs in the sixth inning to seal the victory.

Hish led the Polar Bears with a three-for-three performance with two RBI at the plate in game six. Swierz and Cloonan each ended with two hits while the former added a team-high three RBI.

Ohio Northern concludes its season with a 23-19 overall record.

"This team would not be possible without our two outstanding senior leaders," Price remarked. "Without them, we would not have succeded this season or made it to the championship game. I am also extremely proud of our freshman for stepping up and being consistent this season."