Lehto no hitter aids CMU to complete third-straight sweep over BGSU
With two outs in the top of the seventh, junior pitcher Grace Lehto had one more batter to face to complete her first no hitter of the season.
On a 2-0 count, Lehto delivered the pitch and forced the ground out to second base to give her the no-hitter and give the Chippewas the 5-0 win in the second game of Wednesday's double-header against Bowling Green. That pushed the team's win streak to 11.
"I think yesterday she didn't have her best stuff, so coming out today just seeing her continue to be composed and confident on the mound," head coach McCall Salmon said. "You really could tell that, you know, she was just doing whatever she could every single pitch to keep us in the game, and she was spinning the ball well."
Before Lehto's performance, redshirt-senior Kaitlyn Bean led in the circle in the first game, defeating BGSU, 5-1 to win its seventh-straight series.
With the sweep for CMU (27-19, 17-6) and losses from Miami (Ohio) and Ohio during their Wednesday matchups, the Chippewas have moved into the sole first place in the Mid-American Conference.
"Anytime you win, it's gonna bring confidence," Salmon said. "And so I think for us just continuing to bring solid defense and solid pitching, you know, I think our offense has been up and down. But they've been making it work and ... producing when we need to."
Senior left fielder Kelsey Alexander led at the plate in the series, having two multi-hit games. She went 5-for-10 at the plate for two RBIs and two runs in the game.
The Chippewas got the win in the first game of the double-header, 5-1, aided by multi-hit games from the senior third baseman Emily Bracamonte and sophomore shortstop Maddie Springer.
The Falcons took the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning following a two-out single from left fielder Katie Hutter. However with the bases loaded, CMU ended the threat with a pop out to Bracamonte.
In the bottom of the second, the Chippewas started to threaten following a ground-rule double from Bracamonte, to put two runners in scoring position. With two outs, Springer delivered a single to center field to score junior first baseman Lucy Cronin and Bracamonte, and give CMU the 2-1 lead.
The Chippewas added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth when Bracamonte got her second double of the day, scoring redshirt senior Samantha Mills and pushing the score to 3-1.
Mills got things going for CMU in the bottom of the sixth with a lead-off double. Two at-bats later, Springer registered her third RBI of the day with a single to left field, adding an insurance run for the Chippewas. CMU was not done yet Alexander hit an RBI single to score Springer and extend the lead to four.
In the top of the seventh, the Chippewa defense came up with three-straight outs to secure the series win and extend the streak to 10.
Redshirt senior pitcher Kaitlyn Bean got the win in the circle, allowing one run on four hits, with four strikeouts and one walk in seven innings pitched.
In the matchup, CMU was led by the bottom of the order, with the seven through nine batters all registering a hit.
Coming out of the eight spot, Bracamonte had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, driving in one RBI and scoring one for the Chippewas.
Following Bracamonte in the lineup was Springer, who went 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs and one run.
"I think both of them have been having quality at-bats," Salmon said. "And anytime we can turn the bottom half of our lineup (and) turn it over to the top half.
"You need consistent production one through nine, and I thought seven, eight (and) nine were very consistent for us all day today."
Central Michigan completed the sweep against Bowling Green 5-0 in game two of the double header, carried by Lehto's no-hitter.
In game two, she gave up no runs on no hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
The Chippewas put their first run up on the board in the bottom of the second, when junior Abbey Tolmie singled to left field and batted in redshirt senior Samantha Mills, recording an RBI.
The third and fourth innings went scoreless for both teams; however, Central Michigan heated things back up in the fifth and sixth.
In the fifth, sophomore Allyssa Hollo singled to left center, allowing Alexander to score and extend the lead to two. Junior Lucy Cronin kept things going with a single to right center field, scoring freshman pinch runner Cierra Laska.
Central Michigan added another pair of runs in the sixth inning. Tolmie doubled to left center, bringing in her second run of the day by scoring freshman Angela Petrovich. Junior Michaleigh Vallimont singled up the middle, allowing Tolmie to score and recording an RBI.
After not recording a hit for five straight games, Tolmie came up big for the Chippewas, recording three hits in game two, driving in two RBIs and scoring one.
"(It) doesn't matter how long she went without a hit, the kids still gonna give you everything she has every at-bat and we knew that ," Salmon said. "She was hitting the ball hard.
"It would come. That's hitting, you know, it's not easy. And she's been consistent high .400 hitter for us all year and we knew she was going to bounce out of it. ... I was just glad that happened in game two."
The Chippewas will travel to Miami, Ohio this weekend for a MAC series against the Redhawks, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"I think we all need to have a game plan when we step in the box. That'll be step one," Salmon said. "I think staying calm and confident will be step two, trusting the process.
"As a team we're excited for the opportunity. It's another MAC series and we have to treat it like every other one and just as important as the other."