AKRON, Ohio — Coming in to the Mid-American Conference tournament finals, everything seemed to be going Central Michigan’s way.
The Chippewas only needed to win one game, while Miami University needed to win three Saturday.
But the RedHawks were up to the task, spoiling the Chippewas’ day with a 2-0 win in Game 1 and a 4-0 win in Game 2 to claim the MAC title and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA regionals.
“They played a better game than we did,” head coach Margo Jonker said. “Very disappointing to lose on the final day, but that is part of championship play.”
In Game 1, Kara Dornbos remained strong but wasn’t quite as dominant as she had been all tournament. A couple CMU errors helped contribute to one of Miami’s two earned runs, keeping her ERA below a half a run as she and MAC Pitcher of the Year Jessica Simpson battled in a scoreless tie through five.
But a couple doubles and an error in the sixth gave the RedHawks all they needed to take Game 1.
“We didn’t really hit that much all tournament, and we’ve been fortunate scoring the runs we did,” Jonker said.
In Game 2, sophomore Chelsea Sundberg took the circle, and the MU hitters weren’t fooled by the change. The RedHawks hit her early and often, scoring twice in the first inning and opening up a 3-0 lead, forcing Jonker to bring Dornbos in after 2 2/3 innings.
The Chippewas’ bats didn’t help the situation either, as they were able to get runners in scoring position in each of the first six innings but failed to put a run across home plate.
Much of that had to do with clutch pitching from RedHawks starter Simpson, who not only shutout CMU in back-to-back games, but also beat Western Michigan in their first game of the day 3-1. She threw 20 innings Saturday, recording all three of Miami’s wins.
“We didn’t hit the ball today and give credit to their pitcher and defense,” Jonker said. “She did a nice job against us.”
The loss ends a nine-game CMU winning streak, one that helped punch its ticket to Akron and start 4-0 in the conference tournament.
Dornbos, the team’s ace all season, threw 33 and 1/3 innings in the MAC tournament and posted a 3-1 record with a save, finishing with a 0.42 ERA and making the all-tournament team.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Dornbos said. “We almost didn’t even get here to make it to the championship game.
“I owe it all to my defense behind me and for Cory (DeLamielleure); she did a great job. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The championship appearance was CMU’s first since 2007. The Chippewas have not won the tournament since 2002.