Early lead holds up as MU claims another MAC title
Pratt scatters four hits to tame Bobcats
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Defending champion Miami scored five runs over the first two innings and went on to post 6-2 win over Ohio Saturday, securing another MAC Tournament title and NCAA berth in the process.
Brianna Pratt went the distance for Miami (37-18), allowing two runs on four hits while registering her 30th win (against 10 losses) on the season. It was the third straight complete game in three days for the Miami's ace. She and her teammates now await the revelation of MU's next opponent on Sunday's NCAA Softball Tournament selection show (7 p.m. on ESPN2).
Ohio, meanwhile, fell to 32-23 with the loss. The No.-2 seeded Bobcats went 1-2 in the MAC tournament, losing twice to No. 1 seed Miami. Freshman Skipp Miller (18-13) . . .
. . . took the loss Saturday. She allowed five runs on seven hits with five walks and six strikeouts.
The RedHawks totaled seven hits on the day, with five of those coming in the first two innings when MU scored five runs. Allie Cummins opened Miami's first with a single to center and Holly Blaska followed with an RBI line drive double down the right field line. A ground out moved Blaska to third, and she came home on Riley Coyne's fly ball to right.
Unlike the previous night, when each team had two homers, neither squad cleared the fences Saturday. However, MU had a couple long outs that brought home two runs on the day.
"I think two of them got held up (in the wind)," Miami head coach Kirin Kumar said. "Sometimes that's what happens, and you have to manufacture runs. We can steal bases and (use) base hits to score."
A potential Bobcat rally in the second was short-circuited when Chloe Parks, backing up on the play, turned a potential RedHawk error into an out at first. Pratt later induced another ground out to second to end the inning with three Bobcats stranded on base.
Miami came back for more in the second, and Parks got it started with a walk -- one of five RedHawk free passes on the day. After stealing second, the sophomore moved to third on a Kobayashi single. When Barlow grounded to shortstop, Parks was cut down at home. Kobayashi, however, advanced to third and scored on a Maddi Banks single that also moved Barlow over to third. That proved valuable when Cummins drove a fly to deep right. Barlow tagged and easily scored, raising Miami's lead to 5-0.
Ohio finally broke through in the fourth, with two straight walks priming the rally. After a ground out, singles by Sydney Grein and CiCi Keidel drove in runs. Two were left on base when Jenna Golembiewski pulled in a liner to center to end the frame.
Leading 5-2, Miami had a chance to add to its margin in the bottom of the inning. However, three walks were stranded when the RedHawks failed to get a hit.
A double play helped Pratt get through the fifth in three batters and MU scored the game's final run in the bottom half. Parks reached on a one-out error. Kobayashi then tripled to left center.
Pratt limited the 'Cats to one hit over the final two innings, and the game ended with Paoli, who went 4-for-4 against MU Friday, lining out to deep center. She was 0-for-4 in the final game.
Ohio and Miami combined for 12 runs and 23 hits with four homers the previous day. Asked about differences between the two meetings, Kumar observed, "Bri's ball moved more, I think. That's why they weren't getting solid hits like they did the first game. That was huge, and we manufactured runs this time.
"We knew they were a good hitting team, and I had to be sharp," Pratt said "I really worked on fixing my movement this game. She also noted she is always backed up by Miami hitting, defense and veteran catcher Riley Coyne.
"I've been catching Bri since we were freshmen," Coyne said. "I just really know that she's going to pull through and we have each other's back -- no matter what."
No Bobcat had more than one hit, although Hoffner recorded one hit and two walks. She and Paoli joined Shelby Westler on the MAC All-Tournament Team. Blaska, Spaid, Coyne and Cummins represented Miami, with Spaid taking tournament MVP honors.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.