By BRIAN LESTER
If the University of Findlay softball team had found a way to maintain momentum against Grand Valley in the second round of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament Friday night, the outcome could have been different.
But an early advantage didn’t translate into a victory as the Oilers were beaten 8-4 by the Lakers on a chilly and cloudy evening at the Marathon Diamonds Complex.
Earlier in the day, the UF stunned top-seeded Ohio Dominican 16-11 in an exhausting seven-inning battle. But the eighth-seeded Oilers didn’t have the same success against the fourth-seeded Lakers, who are a traditional power in the GLIAC.
UF (23-18) led 2-0 through a half inning of play but the Lakers (29-10) took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back.
“Against a team like Grand Valley, if you score early, you can’t let them off the hook,” UF head coach Ron Ammons said. “We didn’t have the comeback inning like we did against Dominican. Grand Valley is a veteran team. They have done this so many times.”
UF, which will play rival Ashland (26-17), the seventh seed, in an elimination game at 10 a.m. today, went into this tournament feeling no pressure and had an extra dose of confidence after scoring six times in the seventh to knock off the Panthers.
That confidence carried over to the game against the Lakers, at least early on, as Jackie Messersmith ripped a triple into the outfield to give the Oilers their first base runner.
Tori Allen drove her in with a sacrifice fly, and with the bases loaded, Emily Reynolds scored on a wild pitch.
But the Lakers put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first, including two on a hit by Tonya Calkins.
The Lakers extended their lead to 6-2 at the end of the second before Tawna Whited cut the lead to three as she knocked in Reynolds with a run-scoring hit to right.
Allen’s second sacrifice fly of the game, which brought Messersmith across the plate, sliced the Lakers’ lead to 7-4 in the fourth.
The Oilers managed only six hits as Sara Andrasik worked 42/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits. She struck out three and walked five. Messersmith tallied two hits, both triples.
“Their pitcher struggled a little bit, but we needed to do a better job of working the count against her,” Ammons said. “We weren’t able to string hits together.”
The Lakers racked up 11 hits, with Brittany Taylor coming through with three, including a triple, as Tawna Whited suffered the loss.
Whited, a second-team All-GLIAC selection and the program leader in wins, went six inning and allowed all eight runs. She struck out one.
It was a different story in the opener. Down by a run, and down to its final outs, UF rose up in a pressure-packed seventh situation.
The Oilers trailed 11-10 entering the seventh, but Courtney Dwyer ignited a rally as she belted a three-run triple to give UF the lead for good at 13-11.
Dwyer scored on a sacrifice fly by Allen and and former North Baltimore standout Emily Stewart finished the big inning off with a two-run home run.
The Panthers, the regular season champions of the GLIAC, came up empty in the bottom of the seventh as the Oilers held on for the win.
The Oilers have improved steadily all season offensively, and they were clicking again on Friday. UF racked up 17 hits, including three home runs, the final one by Stewart.
“I had no clue if it was going to be a home run,” Stewart said. “Every time I hit a home run, I don’t ever think it’s going to happen again. It’s always a surprise. It was huge.”
Ammons said one of the keys for his team was that it never went into panic mode.
“We were relaxed. The pressure was on them,” Ammons said. “Both teams hit the ball and swung the bats aggressively. Our players stepped up to the challenge.”
The Oilers and Panthers were tied at 2-2 after one inning but UF took control in the second, scoring five times for a 7-2 lead. Stewart drove in a run on a double while Messersmith and Allen also knocked in runs. The other two runs came on an error.
The Oilers, who lost twice to the Panthers in the regular season. were down 9-7 before Turner crushed a two-run home run to tie the game in the fifth.
Messersmith’s home run in the sixth gave the Oilers a 10-9 advantage but the Panthers scored twice in the bottom of the inning to take the lead.
It was all Oilers the rest of the way on a day when they scored a season-high 16 runs. Jenna Inman earned the win as she recorded two outs in the sixth.
Messersmith and Stewart tallied three hits apiece. Stewart drove in three runs. Reynolds, a former Elmwood standout and an honorable mention All-GLIAC pick, finished with two hits and knocked in a run. Dwyer, Allen and Turner all came through with two hits apiece as well.
Allen was an honorable mention selection as well in the GLIAC.
“We came in with nothing to lose. We knew as a team we could do this,” Stewart said. “We are finally coming together as a team.”
Even with a 1-1 day, the Oilers are still alive. Their next test is against Ashland, which survived with a 6-1 win over Saginaw Valley. UF lost 3-2 and 2-0 to the Eagles during the regular season.
“I told the girls, one of our main goals was to get to Saturday,” Ammons said. “We still have a chance. Ashland is another strong team with tradition. We are going to have to play our best to hang with them.”
FINDLAY 16, OHIO DOMINICAN 11
Findlay 250 021 6 — 16 17 3
Ohio Dominican 200 702 0 — 11 12 2
WP — Inman (2-0). LP — Murdoch (2-6). top hitters: (UF) Messersmith 2-1B, HR, 2 RBI; Stewart HR, 2B, 1B, 3 RBI; Dwyer 3B, 1B, 3 RBI; Allen 2-1B, 2 RBI; Reynolds 2-2B, RBI; Turner HR, 1B, 2 RBI; Funk 2B; Trumpler 2-1B. (ODU) Albanese 2-1B, HR, 5 RBI; Thomas 2B, 1B, RBI; Seeds 2B, 1B; Sanner 2-1B; Hinton 2-1B, RBI.
records: Findlay 23-17, Ohio Dominican 25-26.
GRAND VALLEY STATE 8, FINDLAY 4
Findlay 201 100 0 — 4 6 0
Grand Valley State 331 010 x — 8 11 0
WP — Andrasik (12-6). LP — Whited (15-9). top hitters: (UF) Messersmith 2-3B; Allen 1B, 2 RBI; Whited 1B, RBI. (GVSU) Brit Taylor 2-1B, 3B; Lenza 2-1B, RBI; Bria. Taylor 3B, 2 RBI; Cleary 2-1B, RBI.
records: Grand Valley State 29-10, Findlay 23-18.
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