Hosting RedHawks seek third straight MAC Tourney title
By MIKE SMITH
The Miami RedHawks open MAC Softball Tournament play Thursday, taking on Ball State at 3:30 p.m. at the Miami Softball Complex. It's a battle of No. 1 versus No. 4 as the top-seeded RedHawks open a three-day battle for the Mid-American Conference title and NCAA tourney berth. Ohio (No. 2) faces Central Michigan (No. 3) in the 1 p.m. contest. All tourney games are scheduled to be shown on ESPN+.
Miami finished the MAC season with . . .
. . . a 21-8 conference mark -- one game better than Ohio (20-9). Central Michigan registered an 18-11 record, while Ball State was at 17-12.
Only four teams qualify for the conference tourney, and MU had winning records against all three. It swept CMU in a three-game set April 29-30. Ohio edged the RedHawks (4-2) in a conference opener March 17, but MU came back to win the next two -- 7-6 and 14-1. Ball State, meanwhile, was one of two teams to hang single-game losses on Miami over its last 18 MAC outings. Kent State edged the RedHawks 10-8 to close the regular season. Ball State run-ruled MU 10-0 April 26 in the final game of a three-game series.
One common factor to both those losses is that Miami ace Brianna Pritt (27-10) did not start either game.
Laurelai DePew (4-4) took the loss against BSU, lasting just two-thirds of a inning while surrendering four runs. Taylor Turner finished the frame, which left the Cardinals with a huge 7-0 cushion. They later added three runs in the fourth.Ball State's final offensive stat line showed 10 runs on just five hits, with four walks while batting in just four innings. Meanwhile, a hot-hitting Miami offense was cooled off by starter Bridie Murphy (3 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs) and a pair of relievers (2 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs). Two of MU's hits came off the bat of catcher Riley Coyne. The RedHawks left seven runners on base.
Similarly, last week's 10-8 loss at Kent State was the final game of a three-game series. Junior Taylor Turner started for Miami and took the loss, dropping to 3-4 on the season. She allowed six runs (5 earned) on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 3.1 innings. DePew followed with 2.2 innings, surrendering four runs on four hits. She struck out three while walking one and tossing three wild pitches.
Nine of 10 KSU runs crossed the plate in either the second (3) or sixth (6) inning. The RedHawks chipped away much of the night, scoring single runs in the first five innings. After a scoreless sixth, MU mounted a final final frame rally that yielded three runs.
Overall Miami outhit the Flashes 13-10, but KSU benefitted from eight walks and two RedHawk errors. Karlie Spaid led Miami's offense with three hits. Reagan Bartholomew (2), Chloe Parks (2) and Maddi Banks (2) also had multiple hits. Jenna Golembiewski drove in three runs.
* all of the following stats are "conference play only."
Miami's offense topped the MAC with a .304 batting average in conference play. Ball State was next at .294 and Ohio third (.290). Central Michigan was sixth (.283). The RedHawks also leveraged their league-best 415 hits with 88 homers. The next best was Ball State at 42, followed by Ohio's 39 long balls.
Three RedHawks topped the individual home run list: Spaid (19) Allie Cummins (17) and Golembiewski (17). Coyne, who was fifth with 13, was particularly hot during Miami's stretch run.
Allie Cummins, who typically leads off, led the loop in walks (49), while Chloe Parks shared the lead in triples (4). Holly Blask's 14 doubles was tied for No. 1. Spaid led the MAC in RBI's (52) and runs scored (50) followed by Cummins (46). RedHawks swept the top three spots in slugging percentage: Golembiewski (.876), Spaid (.765) and Cummins (.739).
Ball State's offense did include the league's top two players in batting average. Amaia Daniel hit at a .397 clip, while Haley Wynn was just one point back (.396). The latter led MAC players in on-base percentage (.497).
Ohio and Central Michigan were 1-2, respectively in pitching ERAs. The Bobcats allowed 3.10 earned runs per game, while CMU was at 3.16. Ball State was fifth (3.66) and Miami sixth (3.77).
Individually, Miami's Pratt was the MAC workhorse, logging 225 innings. Lehto Grace (CMU) was second with 181.2 innings, while Miller tossed 178.2 innings (3rd). Pratt went a league best 27-10 in league competition, while Miller(16-11) was second and Grace (14-15) third.
As for fielding, Central Michigan finished first with a .980 percentage. Miami followed at .969. Ball State's .962 was good for sixth and Ohio
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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.