On a quiet day offensively, Ohio (31-21, 21-9 Mid-American Conference) needed Skipp Miller at her best to beat Central Michigan (28-25, 18-12 Mid-American Conference). Luckily for the Bobcats, Miller had a career day under the pressure of the MAC Tournament. Her efforts, combined with some key offense from Shelby Westler, propelled the Bobcats to a 2-0 win.
Going against the top of the lineup, pitchers for both teams came out sharp and retired the first three hitters they faced.
The Chippewas had the first scoring chance of the game when Miller walked the first batter of the second inning. A ground ball hit to Tori O'Brien was misplayed to put runners on first and second with one out. Miller came back to force the next two hitters into weak contact to get out of the inning with the game still tied at zero.
Miller needed the same resiliency in the third inning. The Chippewas hit two singles in three at-bats, but Miller struck out two hitters in the inning and forced another hitter to fly out to center field to end the inning.
The Bobcats had their first hit of the game in the bottom of the third via a one-out single from O'Brien. Belle Hummel reached on an error the next at-bat, but back-to-back Bobcat hitters grounded out to end the inning.
Miller retired six of seven hitters to cruise through the fourth and fifth innings, and the Bobcats had the game's first big scoring chance in the bottom of the fifth. Westler led off the fifth inning with a double to left field. Cici Keidel came very close to a bunt single one at-bat later, but even after an unsuccessful challenge from Jenna Hall, Keidel was called out at first. The bunt advanced Westler to third, but Central Michigan pitcher Grace Lehto came up with a crucial strikeout to retire O'Brien. Pinch-Hitter Austy Miller couldn't drive in Westler from third with two outs and the game remained scoreless.
Facing the Chippewas' 3-4-5 hitters in the sixth, Miller was a bit cautious. She walked the first hitter in the inning but popped up Alyssa Hollo to get an important first out. Another walk put runners on first and second with one out, but Miller pitched with precision under pressure. Miller struck out her seventh and eighth hitter of the game to get out of the sixth.
The game was still scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, but the Bobcats now had their 2-3-4 hitters due up. Yasmine Logan hit a perfectly placed ball in between shortstop and third base to reach first on what was deemed an error. Annalia Paoli was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat, but Emma Hoffner fouled out and the runners on first and second couldn't advance. Alexis Dawe hit a single to second base where she barely beat the throw at first. With the bases loaded and only one out, Lehto struck out Sydney Grein. In the next at-bat, with the bases loaded and two outs, Westler delivered a go-ahead 2-run single.
Westler finished the day two-for-three with two RBIs. Dawe and O'Brien were the only other Bobcats with a hit in the game.
Miller never gave the Chippewas a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. She struck out two straight hitters to start the inning and forced Abbey Tolmie to fly out to end the inning.
Miller pitched all seven innings, struck out 10 hitters, walked three hitters and allowed two hits.
The Bobcats await the winner of Ball State vs. Miami on the winner's side of the bracket at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.