Lehto one-hitter leads CMU softball to win series opener versus BGSU
After giving up a hit and two free bases in the first inning, junior pitcher Grace Lehto bounced back to retire 16-straight batters and allow no hits through six innings to lead Central Michigan softball to the series opener win versus Bowling Green State University, 4-0.
Lehto earned her sixth-straight win of the season and secured her seventh shutout of the year. In seven innings pitched, she allowed only one hit with six strikeouts and three walks.
“I think what I love about Grace (Lehto) right now is she may not have her best stuff, but she's giving us her best effort every single time she steps on the mound,” head coach McCall Salmon said. “I think, you know, from the Buffalo game to now our offense has (her) back… Today she had to deal with ... a tighter strike zone and I thought she stayed composed and worked through that first inning well.”
This game marks the ninth-straight victory for CMU, coming off of two-straight sweeps against Western Michigan and Buffalo.
“I think it's just staying consistent with our mentality every day,” Salmon said. “Like I told them ... our goal today was to go 1-0, our goal tomorrow is to go 2-0. What they've done in the past has given the opportunity, you know, to have what's in front of us at this moment right now, so (the) approach doesn't change.
"We just got to stay mentally within ourselves and continue to work on winning the series from Bowling Green.”
The Chippewas move to 25-19 overall and 15-6 in conference play as they stay at the top position in the Mid-American Conference, tied with Miami (Ohio) and Ohio.
“I think as long as we continue to stay confident in everything we're doing, you know, those big moments and those key moments are continuing to happen and will continue to happen,” Salmon said. “I think staying the course, making sure you don't take any opponent for granted and, like I said, just trying to go to 2-0 tomorrow and just win another series. ... Every series, no matter who you're playing, is extremely important.”
Redshirt junior second baseman Skylar Coberley led at the plate for CMU, going 2-for-3 with a double, driving in two runs and scoring one in the matchup.
“Last series against Buffalo, (Coberley) struggled in some areas and she was really working through some things and just to see that come to light … (I’m) proud of her," Salmon said. "Slumps and, you know, struggles are part of the game and that's hitting. So to see her work through it and have some success today, I thought it was really huge.”
The Chippewas got out to the early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Coberley delivered with a double to right center that scored senior left fielder Kelsey Alexander and junior right fielder Michaleigh Vallimont. CMU was not done yet in the inning, as junior first baseman Lucy Cronin extended the lead to three with an RBI single.
In her first start of the MAC season, junior Faith Callahan got her first hit of the season to center field for a single in the bottom of the second. Following a walk to Vallimont, Alexander singled to score Callahan and put the Chippewas up 4-0.
“I told the team I was impressed with how we jumped on the board right away,” Salmon said. “I think, you know, scoring first, getting those first four runs those first two innings were key, and helped set the tone a little bit in that area. But tomorrow, we have to be more consistent every single inning. We're gonna see some of the same pitchers and we got to make better adjustments quicker, and I know we will.”
At the plate, The Chippewas were held scoreless in the next four innings. However, Lehto’s pitching held the Falcons hitless to lead CMU to the opening series matchup win.
The Chippewas will finish off the series against Bowling Green with a double-header on Wednesday at Margo Jonker Stadium, starting at 1 p.m.