By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, Ohio---Jacey Gray (Springfield/Holland, Ohio) capped a two-out, three-run rally with an RBI single to give the Owens Community College softball team a 4-0, 4-3 sweep over Lakeland Community College in the program's final home doubleheader this afternoon.
In the first game, Kailey Minarchick (Columbia Station/Columbia Station, Ohio) delivered another masterful performance as she finished with a complete game shutout to help Owens clinch an outright Ohio Community College Athletic Conference (OCCAC) championship.
With the victories, Owens closes its regular season at 25-12 overall and 10-2 in OCCAC play. They will now await their first round opponent in the Region XII District I tournament, which will be held May 11-13 at Berliner Park in Columbus, Ohio.
Game 1: Owens d. Lakeland 4-0
While Minarchick was dealing in the circle, her offense put across four runs over the first two innings as Owens clinched the OCCAC championship outright in today's first game.
Cassidy Rolf (Eastwood/Pemberville, Ohio) scored the game's first run in wild fashion. With one out in the first, she reached on a throwing error. On the throw, she advanced to third. However, Lakeland's first baseman attempted to throw Rolf out at third. The throw was wild, and Rolf advanced home.
Three more runs were tacked on the scoreboard in the second thanks to four hits and some more sloppy defense from Lakeland. Emily Young (Maumee/Maumee, Ohio) started the inning with an infield single. After Young was sacrificed to second, Olivia Myers (Elmwood/Bloomdale, Ohio) reached on an error, which put runners on first and second.
Gray followed with a single to center. On the play, Young was going to stop at third, but Lakeland's centerfielder threw home wildly, which allowed her to score and put Owens up 2-0. Michayla Barga (Bradford/Bradford, Ohio) knocked a bases loaded single through the left side for the third run before Gray scored on a wild pitch to put Owens up 4-0.
Owens was able to put at least one runner on base in each of the next four innings via three singles and a walk, but weren't able to add any insurance runs.
It didn't matter, though, as Minarchick was fanning batters left and right. After allowing the game's first two hitters to reach and move to second and third, she induced two strikeouts and a pop out to escape the jam.
Following that, only two runners reached scoring position - a runner at third with two outs in the second and a runner at third with two outs in the fifth. Both times, Minarchick closed the inning with a strikeout to prevent a run.
In all, she struck out 11 of the 28 batters she faced, including at least one in every inning, while improving to 14-6 overall this year.
It was Minarchick's 14th complete game of the season. She closes conference play with a 7-0 record and one save. In 49.0 innings, she finished with a 1.00 ERA and 44 strikeouts.
Offensively, Ericca Herzog (Southview/Sylvania, Ohio) finished 2-for-4, and Young went 2-for-2 with a run to lead Owens.
Game 2: Owens d. Lakeland 4-3
After 12 of the their previous 14 at bats resulted in outs, including the first two outs in the inning, Owens rallied for three runs on five straight hits in the sixth inning to pick up a 4-3 win in today's finale.
Each team scored one run in the first inning - both on two out rallies. For Lakeland, a bloop single, a stolen base and an RBI single to right center resulted in their run. For Owens, Myers singled to center, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error from the catcher.
Then, after stranding a runner at third in the second inning, Lakeland's first two batters in the third inning came around to score. The first one came after Owens made two errors in the field, and the second came on a run scoring single up the middle.
Following that, Miranda Benschoter (Elmwood/Bloomdale, Ohio) settled down in the circle and retired 13 of the final 16 batters she faced.
The Owens offense got singles from Haley Kreger (Bedford/Temperance, Mich.) and Herzog in the second and third innings, but were retired in order over the next two innings - including one inning in which they only saw three pitches.
The outs they were making included a lot of tough luck line drives, and things started turning around in the sixth after the first two batters were retired.
Lindsey Wiggins (Bradford/Brooker, Fla.) started things with a line drive double to left. Young followed with a bloop single to right. Angelique Prunty (Elyria/Elyria, Ohio) and Kreger followed with back-to-back RBI singles to tie it. Then, Gray hit a hot shot to first that bounced away from the first baseman, and Gray won the race to the bag, while Prunty trotted home for the game-winning run.
In the final inning, Lakeland smacked a leadoff single to right, but a foul fly out to Prunty behind the plate and a sacrifice bunt set up a two out, runner on second situation. During the next at bat, Lakeland's batter popped up the first pitch to Prunty behind the plate. She crashed into the fence and hung on for the final out.
With the complete game victory, Benschoter improved to 10-6 overall this year. She allowed seven hits and three runs (one earned), while striking out six. She closes conference play with a 3-2 record and one save. In 29.2 innings, she posted a 2.36 ERA with 25 strikeouts.
Kreger finished 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead the Owens offense. It was the first multi-hit game of her career. In fact, she had two career hits coming into the game, thus doubling her career total today. Seven others picked up one hit apiece, while the double from Wiggins was the only extra base hit for Owens.
The conference championship was the 14th for Owens since starting the program in the spring of 1999. The only years they didn't win the title were 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2013.
Today was the 803rd game in Owens softball history. They now have a record of 548-254-1 overall. They closed their OCCAC history at 206-47.
With the two wins today, Owens head coach Marcus Smith reached 300 career victories as a head coach.