Tori O'Brien smiles in the Bobcats game against Ball State
Tori O’Brien smiles in the Bobcats game against Ball State [Maria Monesi | WOUB]

Ohio’s MAC Tournament run comes to a close against Ball State

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AKRON, Ohio (WOUB) — Three teams remained in the double-elimination formatted MAC Tournament Friday night, with the Ohio Bobcats being one of them. While the Bobcats faced the same opponent–the Ball State Cardinals–on Thursday night as well, the stakes were much different this time around with their season in the balance. A different Ball State team decided to show up Friday, however, as the Cardinals sent Ohio home by a final score of 5-1.

The Game

Ohio scored in the first inning in both of its two previous games in the tournament, but couldn’t do so Friday night. This set up a prime opportunity for Ball State to get out ahead early, and they did so in the top of the third. A throwing error, an infield single, and a hit-by-pitch filled the bases with no outs, and the Cardinals capitalized with an RBI sacrifice fly from Jazmyne Armendariz to take a 1-0 lead. However, Mikie Lieving would work out of the jam to keep the deficit just one.
Lieving was stellar across both games Friday, but her day would come to an end during the top of the fourth. With a runner on and two outs, pinch-hitter Jessica Hoffman sent a ball over the head of left fielder Izzie Wilson to drive in a run. With Ball State leading 2-0 and Ohio’s season hanging in the balance, it was time to call Skipp Miller from the bullpen. More on Lieving’s outing later.
Miller would allow the inherited runner to score immediately after, as Hannah Dukeman brought in the runner from second with a single into the outfield. 3-0, Cardinals
While Miller dominated Ball State last night in five shutdown innings, the Cardinals were able to answer her tonight. Miller quickly was faced with two runners in scoring position, and allowed both to score on an infield single and a sacrifice fly, respectively. The Bobcats entered the bottom of the fifth down 5-0.
After eleven consecutive innings without a run, Ohio was finally able to get one on the board in the sixth. Wilson began the party with a one-out triple to right field, followed by Sydney Grein reaching on a fielding error as Ball State tried to make sure Wilson didn’t advance to home. A wild pitch next at-bat would bring in Wilson, though, making it 5-1, Ball State.
However, this effort would not be enough. Ball State would win this one and advance to the championship game, effectively ending the Bobcats’ tournament run.


Some perspective is needed just to understand how improbable it was for Ball State to make the championship. The Cardinals had to play four games in 24 hours, with their loss against Ohio ending just before midnight in Akron. Ball State then went back to Firestone Stadium for a 10:30 a.m. first pitch and ended Central Michigan’s season. With a short break after, the Cardinals came back onto the diamond and ended Toledo’s tournament run as well. Three games played and winning all three is a wildly impressive feat, especially considering Ball State was the last team in the tournament field as the No. 6 seed.
Despite this, Ohio was hot at the right time and was primed for a tournament run. Yesterday’s five-inning win against these same Cardinals was about as flawless as it could get, but Ohio’s flaws showed early in its game against Miami and lingered into this one against Ball State. To put into perspective how hot the Bobcats were entering this tournament, this was the first time the team lost back-to-back games since April 10 and April 16, along with the first time the team lost both games of a doubleheader since March 22 against Miami.
Even with how cold Ohio’s offense was on Friday, there was a lot to be proud of in the circle, especially from Lieving. Lieving came into an undesirable situation having to relieve Miller in the top of the first against Miami and didn’t allow a run all game. She went eight consecutive innings without allowing a run across two games. Lieving stepped up to the task. Ohio’s bats just happened to go cold at the wrong time, combining for two runs across both games on Friday.
The bottom line, though? There’s still a lot to be proud of from this team. Only three players from today’s starting lineup are seniors, as head coach Jenna Hall has a lot of young talent to work with over the offseason and come back even stronger in 2025.