Miami overcomes slow start to knock off Cardinals
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- After spotting Ball State four runs, the Miami RedHawks erupted for eight runs in their next three turns at the plate, and MU went on to claim an 8-4 victory in Mid-American Conference tournament action Thursday at the Miami Softball Complex.
With the win, Miami (35-18) moves on to face Ohio (31-21) in Friday's second game. The Bobcats pushed across two runs in the sixth inning to edge Central Michigan 2-0 in Thursday's MAC Softball Tournament opener.
Karli Spaid led the way against BSU with two hits and four RBIs. Three of those came on a third-inning homer that swung momentum back Miami's way after BSU batted around in its four-run third. Three of the runs . . .
. . . were unearned, as BSU combined four hits with a hit batter, Miami error and bases-loaded walk. The bases were still loaded when MU pitcher Brianna Pratt induced an inning-ending popup to end the sloppy frame.
"She didn't (have her best stuff), but she did what champions do," Miami head coach Kirin Kumar said. "They find a way to win -- regardless."
The RedHawks had gone hitless through two turns and had just one base runner (BB) during that span. After getting stung by BSU in the top of inning three, however, Miami's offense found the "on" switch one out into the third. Maddi Banks got it started with a single to left and Allie Cummins followed with a walk. Both moved up on a ground out to first and both came home on Spaid's two-out blast over the center field fence. Suddenly, the hosts were back within one run at 4-3.
Miami picked up that run in the fourth thanks to some aggressive base running. Jenna Golembiewski opened with a double to left center. After a pitching change and strikeout by Chloe Parks, Kate Kobayashi grounded out third-to-first. Golembiewski decided to try for third on the throw to first, and it paid off when the return throw across got away. That allowed the sophomore to score.
"We don't steal a lot of bases, because we don't want to take the bat out of people's hands," Kumar said. "But sometimes we want to generate things, and when we see something, we'll take it. They're fast enough to do that."
Pratt got out of the fifth with an inning-ending double play. Miami's offense then went back to work. Banks opened with a walk and Cummins doubled, with Banks scoring on a throwing error the center fielder.
After a walk to Blaska, Spaid singled to left so score one run and stole second. Two batters later, Riley Coyne singled through the left side to drive in Spaid and Blaska for an 8-4 lead Miami lead.
Ball State left two runners on in the sixth and put one runner on via walk in the final frame before Golembiewski squeezed a fly ball in center for the game's final out.
Pratt (28-10) went the distance for MU, allowing eight hits and four runs -- only one of which was earned. She struck out three, allowed one walk and hit a batter. Both the walk and HBP put Cardinal runs on the board.
Emma Eubank (2-3) took the loss for Ball State, allowing four runs (3 earned) on three hits with two walks in one inning. Three Cardinal pitchers limited Miami to six hits, but issued six walks. Ball State committed three errors, while MU committed two.
"The first two innings, I think, were nerves," Kumar said. It was "a little bit (of) first game in the MAC (Tournament). I think it's tougher to stay on top than to get on top, so that's a little bit of pressure. Once they got the jitters out (over) the first two innings, they were good to go."
Asked about facing Ohio, who the RedHawks last played back in March (winning two of three), Kumar said, "We're just going to do what we're going to do. . . . If we play our game, we'll be fine."
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.