Ohio had Toledo right where it wanted. The Bobcats were six outs away from a Mid-American Conference Championship. They had a five-run lead in the sixth inning. They needed to win just one of two potential games against the Rockets, a No. 7 seed, to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It sounded easy. It wasn’t.
Ohio lost the Mid-American Conference Championship on Saturday at Firestone Stadium in Akron after falling to Toledo 6-5 in Game 1 and losing again 9-2, in Game 2.
The Rockets, who played three games Saturday, captured their first ever MAC Tournament title and prevented the Bobcats from winning their second consecutive championship.
The Bobcats scored first in the bottom of the first inning after Allie Englant took advantage of a Maddie McGurk wild pitch to get the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
Ohio extended its lead in the fifth inning after an Alex Day sacrifice fly brought home Englant. Natalie Alvarez hit a one-out double to bring home Justice Ruggles and Katie Yun. Charlee Pond extended the Bobcats lead to 5-0 after she reached first on an error to bring home Taytum Hargrave.
With two innings left, Ohio looked like it would cruise to its second consecutive title.
Then, the Rockets woke up.
Kaitlyn Bergman initiated the Rockets’ comeback hopes with a two-run homer over the left field wall to break Ohio’s shutout. Toledo’s deficit was cut to 5-3 after Morgan Paaverud singled to center field to score Bekah Yenrick.
Ohio tried desperately to score some insurance runs in the sixth inning but couldn’t find any luck.
With one inning remaining and up two runs, Ohio starter Madi McCrady needed three outs to win the game. The Rockets needed three runs.
McCrady, however, was unable to get the outs she needed after two fielding errors and a single loaded the bases with only one out.
Disaster struck next.
Feeling the pressure of needing just two more outs, McCrady’s pitches sailed from the strike zone and two consecutive walks scored two runs and tied the game. One sac fly later, and Toledo suddenly had the lead.
Ohio failed to answer with any runs in the seventh inning and a Game 2, which seemed far from the picture just an hour earlier, was needed to decide a winner.
Just like Game 1, Ohio struck first. Alvarez singled in Alex Day after Day reached first on a single, then advanced to second on an outfield error.
But it didn’t matter. After Ohio’s quick start, Toledo was in the driver’s seat.
The Rockets scored five runs in the fourth inning on six hits and two crucial Ohio errors. With its season on the line, Ohio needed to pull things together in order to avoid an utter collapse.
Things only got worse.
Toledo added four more runs in the fifth inning to build a lead that proved unbreakable for Ohio, who got to Saturday thanks to timely hitting and an explosive offense. But that formula was absent in Game 2, and all of the hope the Bobcats carried into Firestone Stadium evaporated with each out.
Ohio was so close, but it came up short.
The loss ends Ohio’s season and sends one of the schools best senior classes away empty-handed. The six players who made up Ohio’s senior class had made the MAC Championship all four years they were together.
Unfortunately for them they couldn’t go out champs one last time.