After mounting one magical comeback after another throughout the weekend, there were no rabbits left for the Bobcats to pull out of their hats in the deciding games Sunday afternoon.
Ohio (26-23) battled injuries and rainy weather through an improbable Mid-American Conference Tournament run, but fell twice to top-seeded Western Michigan (25-28), losing 4-3 and then 7-4 to miss out on the MAC Championship.
The second and deciding contest got off to an ominous start with Ohio’s ace struggling. Senior Emily Wethington (21-12), who came into the game pitching all but one inning in the tournament for Ohio, gave up a leadoff home run to Broncos’ pitcher and tournament MVP Meredith Whitney.
Wethington surrendered a double to Lexi Jager, who came around to score on a wild pitch, and was given the hook after allowing another pair of batters to reach base. She only recorded one out, making it her shortest outing of the season at the worst time.
Senior left-hander Melissa Bonner came on in relief but errors and fielding miscues allowed Western Michigan to stretch the lead to 5-0 — all the run support Whitney would need — before the Bobcats even touched a bat.
Bonner scattered nine hits during 6 2/3 innings on the circle.
“Emily definitely threw her heart out there this week and it was (Bonner’s) time to do the job for us,” coach Jodi Hermanek said. “And, she came in and threw an awesome game for us on the mound.
“We just made some costly errors that they took advantage of.”
The Bobcats brought themselves back within three runs in the bottom of the second when second baseman Brooke Morgart walloped the ball to right-center field, scoring a pair with a stand-up triple.
“She just drilled it,” Hermanek said. “They were playing her with a short defense as a lefty slapper, and she saw it and got a hold of the ball.”
But Jillian Van Wagnen attempted to bunt Morgart home and was thrown out at first to end the inning.
The teams would trade runs in the third, with Ohio coming off a solo home run blasted to deep center field by Paige Kemezis, but the Bobcats failed to ever make up enough ground on the Broncos.
Ohio added one more run in the bottom of the sixth when Lauren Gellerman knocked in Bonner, who went 1-for-3 at the plate.
But with the tying run at the plate, Whitney popped up pinch-hitter Chelsea Hortman to quash a Bobcats rally.
The Broncos added one more run in the top of the seventh to stretch the lead back to four. Whitney then retired the Bobcats in order in the bottom of the inning — striking out Van Wagnen to end the game to give the Broncos their first MAC Tournament Championship since 2003.
“We made a great run and it just didn’t play out the way we wanted it to,” Wethington said. “We played a great few games but it just wasn’t in the cards for us this time.”