Pitching leads CMU in double-header sweep versus WMU to win season series

Junior infielder Lucy Cronin tags the runner out during a game against Kent State Tuesday, March 28 at Margo Jonker Stadium. Cronin's current field percentage is .980.

Junior Grace Lehto came into the series against Western Michigan off of a shutout performance against Toledo on Wednesday. Looking to repeat, Lehto delivered with a shutout victory, 1-0 for Central Michigan softball in the opening matchup against the Broncos on Saturday. 

In the second game of the day, redshirt senior Kaitlyn Bean was able to carry on the success in the circle, holding the Broncos (13-19, 7-6) to five hits to give the Chippewas (20-19,10-6) the 7-1 win and its fifth-straight series win. 

“Couldn't have asked for anything else,” head coach McCall Salmon said about the pitching performances. “Just giving us opportunities to win. I thought both of them came out with command and control ... offensively allowed us to do what we had to do and not press on their end…  Just proud of both of them and their performances, much needed as we approach the second half of the MAC.”

The Saturday’s double-header was the Strikeout Cancer Game where the team honored Shannon Sexton, who passed away from cancer earlier this year. Shannon's daughter, Katie Sexton, is a member of the CMU softball team. The team raised money to go to the Sexton family and held a moment of silence before the game. 

“Katie Sexton has been a huge part of our team,” Salmon said. “We've seen the battle her mom's gone through and the toll it's taken on Katie and the strength that Katie's had to have through it all. So, you know, just to raise funds for her and her family and, you know, do it at Margo Jonker Stadium, it's just ... it's bigger than the game… We're just happy that ... we could do this for her and support their family as much as possible.”

The Chippewa defense came up big with multiple diving plays and one double play, making 42 putouts with only one error in the two-game stretch. 

Sophomore DH Allyssa Hollo made an impact in both games, going 2-for-5 with a team-leading three RBIs, batting in the only run the Chippewas earned in the first matchup.

Game 1

Lehto and the CMU defense behind her, led to the series opener win versus WMU as Lehto recorded her third shutout of the MAC season to defeat the Broncos 1-0. 

It was a pitching duel through the first three innings with both pitchers only letting up three hits between the two, keeping both teams scoreless through 3.5 innings. 

However, the Chippewas were able to crack the Broncos starting pitcher Rissa Bajusz in the bottom of the fourth when Hollo hit an RBI single to score pinch runner Cierra Laska and give CMU the 1-0 lead. 

Bajusz caused trouble for the CMU offense, tying a career-high 10 strikeouts in the game while giving up one run on only three hits. 

In seven innings pitched, Lehto gave up no runs on two hits with six strikeouts and no walks to get the win in the circle and move to 8-10 on the season. 

Game 2 

The CMU offense came alive in game two of the series scoring seven runs on eight hits to defeat WMU, 7-0 to secure its fifth-straight series win. 

Senior Kelsey Alexander led off the bottom of the second with her second triple of the season. However, the Broncos came up with three-straight outs to leave Alexander stranded. 

The Chippewas had another chance in the next inning when junior center fielder Abbey Tolmie reached on a walk followed by a single from junior right fielder Michaleigh Vallimont. With two outs, Hollo delivered with a 2-RBI double that scored Tolmie and Vallimont to put the Chippewas up 2-0. 

CMU continued its momentum in the bottom of the fourth when junior first baseman Lucy Cronin was hit by a pitch followed by a single from Samantha Mills. On the next at-bat, the Broncos third baseman made an error on a bunt from senior third baseman Emily Bracamonte to push in two more runs for the Chippewas and extend the lead to four.

Following a Tolmie single that put two runners in scoring position, Vallimont hit a 2-RBI single to go up, 6-0. A miscommunication by WMU on a first and third situation led to CMU’s fifth run of the fourth inning to put the Chippewas up 7-0.  

Following the Broncos earning one run in the bottom of the seventh, CMU secured the win after a strikeout from Bean. Getting the start in the circle, Bean gave up one run on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.  

Coming out of the lead-off spot, Tolmie got her 16th multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored for CMU. Following Tolmie in the lineup, Vallimont went 2-for-4, driving in two runs while scoring two more in game two.

The Chippewas will finish out the season series against Western Michigan on Sunday at Margo Jonker Stadium at 10 a.m. 

“I think every opportunity we have to play a game in the MAC is an opportunity for us to put us in a position to meet our goals, and today was no different,” Salmon said. “So, coming out and setting the tone ... getting these first two games, now I want to see us finish it and get the complete sweep..."