May 12, 2012
AKRON, Ohio - An amazing journey is about all that can be said as the Miami University softball team is the 2012 MAC Tournament Champions. The RedHawks needed to win three games on Saturday without losing, and did just that. They started with a 3-1 win over Western Michigan in a final elimination game. Then needing to beat Central Michigan twice, they got a pair of shutouts, winning the opener 2-0 and the nightcap. 4-0. Miami improves its record to 40-18 overall and earns an automatic berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Senior pitcher Jessica Simpson had an afternoon to remember as she was in the circle for all 21 innings. Earning all three wins, she allowed only one unearned run (an ERA of 0.00). She gave up only 14 hits while striking out 23. In the second game of the day, Simpson passed the 1,000-strikeout mark for her career and earned her 100th career victory. She is now 101-56 with a 1.58 ERA and 1,009 strikeouts in her remarkable four-year career.
At the conclusion of the event, Simpson earned a well-deserved MAC Tournament MVP trophy. For the entire tournament she finished 5-1 with a 0.50 ERA in 42 innings pitched. She struck out 45. Joining her on the All-Tournament Team was Shanyn McIntyre, who hit .375 with three doubles and two RBIs, and Kayla Ledbetter, who hit .313 along with catching all 42 innings in the tournament.
The day started with an elimination game against Western Michigan. It was a chance for one final game between Simpson and the Broncos' Meredith Whitney, two senior rivals of the past four years. Miami would strike first in the bottom of the second inning. Daniela Torres led off with a walk. After Ledbetter sacrifice bunted her over to second, an Allie Larrabee double down the left field line would bring Torres home and put Miami on the board.
The RedHawks would get their second run in the bottom of the third when a long double to right field by Jordan McElroy would score Kirstie Fehrenbach all the way from first. Miami completed its scoring in the bottom when it loaded the bases with one out. McIntyre would hit a long fly ball to centerfield that was deep enough to allow Kylie McChesney to score.
That would be all Simpson would need. She would keep the Broncos off the board for the first six innings of the game. An error and a base hit in the top of the seventh would score the only run off her all day, but it was unearned. Simpson would strike out Mackenzie Shepek to finish off the victory. She allowed only four hits, while striking out nine in the game.
McElroy finished the game 2-for-3 with one RBI, while Larrabee was 1-for-3 with one RBI.
After about an hour break, Miami would take the field once again for the first championship game against Central Michigan. Since CMU was undefeated in the tournament, including defeating the RedHawks, 1-0, on Thursday, Miami needed to beat it twice without losing. This contest was a rematch of the pitching duel between Simpson and the Chippewas' Kara Dornbos.
The duel went nearly the same way as before, as both pitchers shut down the opposition for five scoreless innings. It would be Dornbos who cracked first, as the Red and White would finally break through on her for two runs in the top of the sixth. McIntyre led the inning off with a double to left field. Torres would then try to sacrifice bunt her over to third, but an errant throw would allow McIntyre to come home and score the game's first run. Ledbetter would then double to left center to score Torres and make it 2-0.
Simpson, who reached 1,000 strikeouts with a punch-out of Chelsea DeLamielleure in the fifth, would give up singles in each of the final two innings, but would allow nothing further as she finished off the shutout. In addition to being her 100th career win, it was her 44th career shutout, setting a new MAC record.
McIntyre was 2-for-2 with one run scored in that game. Ledbetter was 2-for-3 with one RBI.
Miami had only 40 minutes to rest before getting back on the field for its third game of the day, the deciding title game against Central Michigan. While Simpson went right back to work, the Chippewas decided to throw Chelsea Sundberg, who nearly threw a perfect game against the Red and White back on Apr. 20.
The RedHawks would hit Sundberg hard in the first inning, plating two runs quickly. With McElroy on first and one out, another double from McIntyre would move the runners to second and third. Two batters later, Ledbetter would single to deep left center bringing home both runs and giving the RedHawks an early 2-0 advantage.
In the third inning, Torres would blast Miami's first home run of the tournament, a shot over the left field wall that put the RedHawks up, 3-0, and chased Sundberg from the game. Dornbos would take over and get the final out.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Chippewas had runners at second and third and only one out. Rachael Hensel would try to squeeze bunt a run home, but Simpson made a great fielding play on the ball. She threw it to Ledbetter would blocked the plate and tagged the runner out. Simpson would get the last runner to pop out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fourth, Larrabee walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Tiyona Marshall. Drees would then put down a sacrifice bunt, but the first baseman mishandled the throw and it bounced into the outfield. Marshall showed tremendous hustle as she came home all the way from first to make it 4-0 and complete Miami's scoring in the game.
Simpson, who had showed a bit of fatigue in the first four innings refocused and dominated over the last three. Allowing only a fifth inning walk, she forced Brittney Horan to groundout to McChensey for the final out to give Miami its third MAC Tournament Championship.
Simpson improved her record to 31-13 with the shutout. Despite the fatigue, she allowed only give hits and struck out six.
Ledbetter finished the title game 1-for-3 with two RBI.
Miami will find out its tournament fate on Sunday when the NCAA reveals the pairings on its selection show. The show will air live on ESPNU at 10 p.m. The RedHawks will be placed in one of 16 four-team regions, hosted by the top-16 national seeds. The NCAA Regional round will begin either Thursday or Friday and will be double elimination. Check back with MURedHawks.com for all the latest news on Miami's NCAA Tournament run.