AKRON, Ohio - Central Michigan Softball will play for the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship on Saturday, May 11, after defeating Northern Illinois 5-0 in the semifinals. The Chippewas will wait and play the winner of Ohio/Ball State vs. the Huskies.
Junior Brittney Horan led Central Michigan with two RBIs, going 1-4 at the plate. Sophomore CarolAnn Sexauer had a team-high two hits. The Chippewas had seven total hits and stole three bases. Senior Kara Dornbos made her third straight start in the circle, pitching her third consecutive shut out of the tournament and giving up only three hits.
Bryanna Phelan, Amanda Sheppard and Jessica Sturm recorded Northern Illinois’ three hits. Emily Norton started in the circle for the Huskies, pitching 6.1 innings and giving up five runs. Sturm closed the game, allowing one hit in 0.2 innings.
Freshman Katelyn Rentschler led off the fifth inning with a grounder to short for the first out. After senior Summer Knoop walked to reach first, senior Macy Merchant laid down a bunt to move the runner. The ball was misplayed at first, allowing the runner to move to third and Merchant to second. The bases became loaded for the first time after junior Raechel Zahrn looked at ball four. Horan knocked a single to left to score two runs for the Chippewas and move Zahrn to second with one out. Senior Brogan Darwin struck out for the second out, brining junior Cory DeLamielleure to the plate. DeLamielleure worked her way into a full count then walked to load the bases for the second time in the inning. Sophomore Trista Cox popped up to short for the final out, ending the side with a 2-0 advantage for Central Michigan.
Dornbos opened the bottom of the fifth by hitting Shelby Miller in the hand to move her to first. Sturm moved the runner over with a bunt and was thrown out at first by Cox. Ashley Kopp followed with a grounder that she narrowly beat out to put two runners on with one out. Norton hit into a fielder’s choice that caught the lead runner at third. Erika Oswald ended the inning with a ground out to short, leaving the Chippewas in front 2-0.
Sexauer started the sixth with her first hit of the game and moved to second on a throwing error by Northern Illinois. Rentschler advanced the runner with a single to left, bringing Knoop up with no outs and runners on the corners. Junior Kristen Kuhlman, pinch running for Rentschler, stole second, allowing for the runner on third to steal home, putting Central Michigan up 3-0. Kuhlman moved to third on the third error of the game by the Huskies. Knoop grounded out, and then a wild pitch allowed for Kuhlman to come home for Central Michigan’s second run of the inning. Merchant failed to reach for the second out of the inning, and then Zahrn lined out to the pitcher.
In the top of the seventh, Freshman Evelyn Lorimer, in to pinch hit for Darwin, singled down the right line to put one on for DeLamielleure. Lorimer stole second base before DeLamielleure popped up to the pitcher for the second out. Central Michigan scored its fifth run on another Northern Illinois error. Cox popped up to first, but a dropped ball allowed Lorimer to come home. Cox advanced to third on a single from Sexauer, her second of the day. Rentschler ended the top of the seventh with a groundout.
Jennifer Barnett reached first after getting hit in the elbow to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Miller hit into a double play to bring Sturm to the plate. Sturm hit a single up the middle to keep the Huskies alive in the seventh, down five runs. Kopp ended the game with a pop up, sending the Chippewas to the MAC Tournament Championship.
Merchant led off in the first inning for Central Michigan with a groundout to third. Zahrn followed with a double that fell just under the left fielder. Horan was unable to advance the runner, hitting a blooper to the second baseman. With two out, Darwin struck out to end the top of the first inning.
Phelan opened the bottom of the first with a groundout to Dornbos for the Huskies’ first out of the game. Sheppard got Northern Illinois’ first hit of the game, knocking a single to left. With one out and a runner on, Gremillion hit a liner to Rentschler, who made the catch and tagged the runner out at first, ending the inning 0-0.
DeLamielleure struck out to start the second, bringing Cox to the plate. Cox became the Chippewas’ second base runner of the game, looking at ball four to reach first. Sexauer worked her way to a 2-2 count before popping up to second. Rentschler stepped to the plate with two out and became the third strike out by the Huskies’ Norton.
Northern Illinois’ Barnett was the bottom of the second’s first out, hitting a liner to Horan at second. Miller was unable to reach base, hitting a foul ball back to DeLamielleure. Sturm ended the inning with a groundout to Horan.
The third inning began with a groundout from Knoop to bring up Merchant. Merchant hit a grounder that she was unable to beat out, and Zahrn ended the side with a fly ball to right field.
Kopp led off the bottom of the third with a walk, but was picked off by DeLamielleure on the first pitch to Norton. Norton popped up to Horan for the Huskies’ second out of the inning. Oswald ended the inning, leaving the score 0-0 through three innings.
Norton continued to stump the Central Michigan batters in the top of the fourth, forcing a ground out from Horan. Darwin struck out for the second time in the game to bring DeLamielleure to the plate. DeLamielleure hit a long, foul ball to left field before walking. Cox advanced the runner with a single to left, only the Chippewas’ second hit of the game. Sexauer stranded both runners with a fly ball to left.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Phelan led off with a single that dropped just behind second base. Sheppard hit into a fielder’s choice, grounding out to Cox who made the throw to Horan at second to catch the lead runner. Central Michigan’s defense again went after the lead runner, forcing Gremillion to reach on a fielder’s choice. Sexauer ended the inning for Northern Illinois making a throw from the dirt over to first.
The Chippewas will play for their 10th MAC Tournament title in program history. With one more win, Central Michigan will clinch a berth to the NCAA Regionals and earn Head Coach Margo Jonker’s 1,100th career victory. Game one of the finals is scheduled for 4 p.m. tomorrow, May 11.