KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ohio won two elimination games on Saturday to push itself into the championship series of the Knoxville Regional at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Ohio’s first NCAA Tournament win in program history came in Game One, when the Bobcats beat Monmouth 4-0. The Bobcats won their second game over James Madison 7-3, avenging a 2-1 loss from Friday night.
“This team, we’ve broken so many records for the school,” junior Morgan Geno said. “It just shows that we’re meant to be here. It’s not a fluke.”
The two games, however, played out completely different. Ohio’s pitching led the way in the first game, and an offensive explosion in the fifth inning of Game Two made the difference for the Bobcats.
Game Two: Ohio 7, James Madison 3
Geno launched a high fly ball that almost went to the top of the right-center field bleachers at Lee Stadium. As she rounded third and slapped hands with coach Jodi Hermanek, the Bobcats’ coach turned back to the dugout and threw her hands up in celebration.
Geno’s homer gave Ohio the 3-2 lead in the game, and was a part of the six run inning the Bobcats had that made the difference.
“I was seeing stars,” Hermanek said.
The game was scoreless until the top part of the fifth when James Madison scored two runs. Then in the bottom half, Taylor Saxton started the rally with a slap single, and with a throwing error and an obstruction call, ended up at third base.
Mikayla Cooper got Ohio on the board first with a double. After Alex Day grounded out, Geno’s blast gave the Bobcats the lead.
Katie Yun reached on a single and Natalie Alvarez added more when she hit a two-run home run to keep the rally going. After a James Madison pitching change, Mackenzie Brunswick hit an RBI triple down the right field line.
“We knew (the James Madison pitcher) was just trying to get at the zone,” Hermanek said. “So we were like “Okay, she’s bringing it to the zone, let’s get to the zone.’”
Cooper added the seventh run the next inning with a sacrifice fly.
Game One: Ohio 4, Monmouth 0
Ohio’s pitching worked in and out of trouble throughout the game, shutting down any rally Monmouth put up. The Bobcats only had one clean inning in the game.
Danielle Stiene started the game and found herself in an early jam. After striking out the first batter of the game, she allowed a single, which was followed by a double. Working with runners on second and third, Stiene worked out of that jam, striking out the next two batters.
Monmouth got two runners on again the next two innings, and Stiene worked out of those, too. Monmouth loaded the bases in the fourth, and again she worked out of the jam. That fourth inning was Stiene’s last, she struck out nine in her outing.
Kendall Meeks then pitched the fifth, stranding a runner. Madi McCrady followed her to pitch the final two innings. Her sixth inning was the only clean inning the Bobcats had all game.
Offensively, Ohio started its scoring when Yun launched a line drive that cleared the fence for a two-run home run in the first inning. Yun’s homer gave Ohio its first ever lead in a NCAA Tournament game.
“I was running like, get out, get out, get out,” Yun said.
The Bobcats scored again in the second inning when Allie Englant stole second base, and the throw from the catcher went all the way to the center field wall, allowing Englant to take two extra bases.
Winning the first game meant playing a second game 30 minutes after, against a James Madison team that had lost earlier to Tennessee, but had rest in between games.
With Ohio’s two wins Saturday, it now faces No. 10 Tennessee on Sunday. The Bobcats will have their backs against the wall, as they'll have to win two games to advance, while the Lady Vols only have to win one of the two possible games. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.