After entering the Mid-American Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed and encountering some late-season struggles, Ohio’s chances at making the conference championship were shaky. But after a walk-off win over Ball State, a blowout victory over Toledo and an upset over top-seeded Miami, the Bobcats are back in the place that they expected to be in all season long: the MAC Championship.
Ohio will have a rematch with either Toledo or Miami for the MAC Championship on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Firestone Stadium. The Bobcats will appear in their fourth straight conference championship game and will seek their second consecutive MAC title and NCAA Tournament berth.
Here’s five takeaways that helped Ohio reach the MAC Championship game.
The name’s Pond, Charlee Pond.
Ohio’s roster is full of upperclassmen talent, but it was a freshman who sent the Bobcats back to the title game. Freshman infielder Charlee Pond delivered in two of Ohio’s victories throughout the tournament. On Wednesday, Pond hit a walk-off single in the eighth inning that led the Bobcats to a 3-2 victory over Ball State. Pond stepped up again Friday when she sent the ball out of Firestone Stadium for a grand slam helping the Bobcats cruise to a 7-3 win.
New coach, same results.
Coming into the year, all eyes were on first-year head coach Kenzie Roark. She had a dynasty on her hands, and all she had to do was make the most of her players to dominate the MAC. That wasn’t how the regular season ultimately went — Ohio had a 4-8 record in April — but Roark has still positioned the Bobcats for a shot at a title. Ohio is playing its best softball at the perfect time, and Roark deserves plenty of credit.
Controlling the circle
Sophomore right-hander Madi McCrady has been stellar in the circle throughout the postseason. Her ability to keep a quick pace has kept batters uncomfortable, and Ohio has found ways to capitalize. Ohio knew all season that it had a special pitcher, and this postseason has only confirmed that McCrady is long-term asset for the Bobcats.
A Class of Champions
While this run has been special for the entire roster, it’s even more poetic for the senior class. This year’s class, which includes Morgan Geno, MacKenzie Brunswick, Deanna Cole, Natalie Alvarez, Alex Day and Michaela Dorsey, have reached the MAC Championship game in every season they’ve played together. Finishing as back-to-back champs would be the shiniest bow to end their storied careers.
Didn’t we already beat you?
After beating Toledo 7-1 on Thursday and pulling off the come from behind win against Miami, Ohio has to feel confident about whoever it plays Saturday. Toledo is back in the race thanks to the double elimination format of the tournament, but the Rockets will have a tall task against the top-seeded RedHawks. Either way, the Bobcats have already defeated both teams, and there’s little reason to believe they won’t find another win.