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Danielle Stiene pitches during Ohio's game against Buffalo on Friday, April 27. The Bobcats beat the Bulls 9-1. (FILE)

Softball: Danielle Stiene proves herself as MAC best in tournament

Danielle Stiene was named Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday. She proved why she deserved that title at Firestone Stadium in Akron this week, earning another accolade to pile on the others she has earned this season: tournament MVP.

The six-time MAC East Pitcher of the Week pitched each of the Ohio’s four games, earning all four wins. This pushed her season record to 27-6, which set a program single-season record for wins. Stiene even threw a six inning no-hitter Friday’s win over Northern Illinois. 

At the championship game Saturday, when Ohio beat Northern Illinois 2-0 to win the conference for the first time since 2014, Stiene, who also named first-team All-MAC Monday, continued her hot streak. She did not allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, striking out six Huskies on the way to her third shutout of the tournament. 

When she threw the pitch that Mackenzie Brunswick caught in center field to clinch the game. The work was done and the mob scene began in the circle.

She ran through the conference all season and it was no different in the tournament. She struck out 31 batters in 27 innings. Her 11 strikeout performance in Wednesday’s win over Miami put her second all-time in strikeouts in program history.

Stiene’s performance all tournament pushed the Bobcats toward what could — or should — have been the past two seasons. This was the third year in a row that Ohio made it to the championship round of the MAC Tournament. 

The Bobcats fell short the previous two seasons, even though probably the best pitcher in program history, Savannah Jo Dorsey, lead the way.

“It’s been a hell of day, great accomplishment,” coach Jodi Hermanek said in a video on the MAC’s Twitter. “Being on this field and not getting what we wanted to earn (the last two seasons). Being regular season champions, being East champions, and coming out here and being amazing all weekend.”

Stiene was there for both title round losses; she learned from the team’s past failures. She learned a lot from Dorsey and wanted to show this season that she could pick up where Dorsey left off. Stiene might have proved that this week in Akron.

“(Dorsey) was a workhorse basically in everything she did,” Stiene said before the season. “That’s what I want from my senior season, is her senior season.”

Stiene became Ohio’s workhorse throughout conference play, appearing in 16 games in the conference regular season, winning 12 of those games and losing only one. She threw 89 1/3 of her 212 2/3 innings in MAC play, pitching to a 1.02 ERA.

She continued to be the workhorse in the conference tournament, being the only pitcher to throw for the Bobcats. They stuck with the hot hand and it worked to perfection.

Stiene probably had her best stuff of the season during the tournament, giving up only 11 hits and walking six. After giving up her only run of the tournament Thursday in Ohio’s win over Kent State, she wasn't in danger again until the sixth inning Saturday, when Northern Illinois had the tying run on base. 

In that inning, like so many others this season, Stiene worked out of it.

Stiene, the senior leader, will continue to be the Bobcats’ workhorse moving forward.

They'll learn where they will travel in the NCAA Regional on Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPN2. Hermanek’s goal for the NCAA tournament is simple. 

“My goal for this group is to play in the championship game in the regional,” she said in the Twitter video. “We’ve been there before, we want to take it a step further.”

With a pitcher like Stiene leading the way, the Bobcats may just reach their goal — and even go further.


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