Danielle Stiene threw her third career no-hitter Friday afternoon to defeat Northern Illinois 8-0. The win advanced Ohio to the championship game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the third consecutive year.
Facing just one batter over the minimum, Stiene didn't allow a hit in six innings. For the first time in the last six games the Bobcats (37-15) scored more than four runs.
The last time a Bobcat pitcher threw a no-hitter or perfect game in the MAC tournament was in 2014 when Savannah Jo Dorsey and the team went on to win the tournament.
With her 26th win of the season Stiene passed Dorsey for the Ohio single-season wins mark. She struck out 6 hitters and only had four balls fielded by outfielders in the 18 recorded outs.
“We’re gonna win,” Stiene told GetSomeMaction.com. “This year we’re hungry for it. Third year in a row? We’re ready to win. We’re going to fight however we need to fight to get that win.”
The only blemish for Steine was a walk in the fourth inning to the NIU (23-31) cleanup hitter.
There was little improvement Stiene could make on her start against the Huskies on April 7 with 11 strikeouts and only one hit, but she was able to do it.
The Ohio hitters wasted no time scoring. Mikayla Cooper started off the bottom of the first with a leadoff walk, which was followed by two ground outs, moving her to third. Morgan Geno hit a ground ball to shortstop and beat the throw to first, allowing Cooper to come across with the first run.
Throughout the season Ohio often would score in the first inning to put pressure on opponents. This forced opponents to rally, which was hard to do against a tough Bobcat pitching staff. In the first two games of the tournament, the earliest Ohio had scored was the third inning, yet in Friday's game the Bobcats drove runs in the first and second.
They added on in the second with baserunner coming from fielder's choice in Allie Englant. Taylor Saxton moved her up to second before Cooper singled in Englant to extend the lead.
That was the first hit of the tournament for Cooper, who usually sets the pace for Ohio as the leadoff hitter. She was batting .343 headed into the game Friday and reached base in three of her four at-bats, including double in the sixth.
The question going into the bottom of the sixth was if Stiene would be able to not allow a hit in the top of the seventh, but the hitters made that question irrelevant by scoring six runs and ending the game thanks to the mercy rule.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Brunswick in the sixth. She lined a single to left to extend the lead to three runs. Englant chopped the ball back to the circle where the leaping NIU pitcher could only manage to get the tip of her glove on it as the ball rolled into the outfield scoring two more runs.
A walk re-loaded the bases for Cooper to clear them with a double down the left field line. That ended the game by mercy rule and guaranteed a no-hitter for Stiene.
Through the first two games, Ohio has managed to just score four runs on seven hits. The offense wasn't needed to score loads of runs with Stiene’s pitching, but had 10 hits along with eight runs against NIU pitchers.
Ohio heads to the championship game, but won't know its opponent until the outcome of a Saturday morning game. Having been in the championship game the past two seasons, Ohio will look to get over the hump and return to the NCAA Tournament.
Whatever team it is will have to beat Ohio twice to win the tournament.