MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Central Michigan Softball's 35th season was a successful one as the Chippewas eclipsed the 1,100-win mark in program history on their way to their 10th Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship and 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Central Michigan’s 33 wins were the most since 2002. The Chippewas won 15 games against MAC opponents and finished second in the West Division behind Ball State.
“The Mid-American Conference segment of the season went extremely well,” said Head Coach Margo Jonker. “In the MAC Tournament, we played the best ball of the season and some of the most focused ball I have seen the Chippewas play in many, many years.”
Coach Margo Jonker and Central Michigan have three times as many MAC Tournament titles as any other coach or program in the conference. Western Michigan and Miami come in at second with three championships each. The Chippewas went 4-0 through the tournament this season, defeating Bowling Green, Kent State and Northern Illinois in the semi-finals and championship game. The 2013 championship run was the eighth time Central Michigan swept the tournament.
Five Chippewas were honored as All-MAC selections this season, most since 2011. Seniors Kara Dornbos and Macy Merchant were voted to the All-MAC First Team, while junior Cory DeLamielleure, sophomore Trisa Cox, and sophomore CarolAnn Sexauer were named to the second team. Dornbos, Merchant, DeLameilleure, and Sexauer were also named to the MAC All-Tournament team.
Senior Macy Merchant’s .408 batting average this season ranks her third in single-season average, and improved her career average to .363, second in Chippewa history and 10th in MAC history. On top of Merchant’s conference accolades, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association named her Second Team All-Region.
“Macy Merchant was incredible this year and she has been incredible her whole career,” Jonker said. “To be over .400 for the whole year means she was consistent the entire year and she set the table for us all year long. When she got on, we tended to do well in that game.”
Senior Kara Dornbos has etched her name for several career records in program history. Dornbos moved into third all-time with 68 complete games, sixth with 21 shutouts, third with 630.2 innings pitched, sixth with 354 strikeouts and fifth with five career saves. Her 36 starts last season set the single-season appearance record. Dornbos was a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award, finishing in the top-30, Capital One Academic All-District V and was named the MAC Tournament MVP.
Several individuals came through with big performances this season, breaking into the top-10 in program history in several categories. Junior Cory DeLamielleure and sophomore CarolAnn Sexauer’s seven home runs this season tied them in sixth for single-season home runs. Freshman Katelyn Rentschler is tied in ninth, hitting six home runs this season. Rentschler also tied the program record with two home runs at Northern Illinois on April 12. On April 7, Merchant tied the program record with five hits against Kent State.
After 34 seasons, Coach Jonker has become the 15th coach in NCAA history to reach the 1,100-win plateau. Jonker is the eighth most winning coach among active Division I coaches.
Central Michigan made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2003, when it was given an at-large bid to the regional round. The Chippewas opened tournament play against California, falling 8-1. Central Michigan was knocked out the next day by Valparaiso, losing 7-4.
“I was disappointed in how we played the last game in the NCAA Tournament,” said Jonker. “But as far as getting there, we have to get back to the consistency we had in the ‘80s and ‘90s and reach the tournament on a consistent basis.”
The Chippewas will be returning their entire infield next season and will be returning the injured Chelsea DeLamielleure.
“I am very excited about next year because we have the entire infield coming back,” Jonker said. “However, we lost our entire outfield and our number one pitcher. We do have a couple of juniors, now seniors, that have experience and will step up and we do have an incoming freshman that I do expect will be quite good.”