Updated Sat, May 10, 2014 8:25 pm
When coach Jodi Hermanek said that her team was not only the best team in Ohio, but also the best team in the Mid-American Conference, she may have raised a few eyebrows. A few more may have risen when Ohio entered the MAC Tournament on Wednesday as the No. 5 seed, still confident it could take home the MAC crown.
But the Bobcats proved their coach right. Ohio re-wrote the history book Saturday when it beat Buffalo 4-0 to win the MAC Tournament championship for the first time and become MAC champions for the first time in 19 years.
“It sounds so good when it’s said,” Hermanek said. “It feels amazing. I’m just so extremely proud of the work by these athletes and the team unity that was out here and displayed for four games in a row.
“Just extremely proud of everything they put together and I just can’t tell you enough how this experience is just program-changing. And just give it up to the girls, they played so hard.”
The game marked the second time Ohio (32-24) beat the Bulls in as many days. The two teams went to 13 innings Friday night before a Dakota Pyles two-run homer sent Buffalo (30-22) packing, but it got off to a quicker start Saturday.
After a Bulls’ double and walk with one out in the top of the second, it looked to many at Firestone Stadium like it could be a long day for the Ohio defense. But Savannah Jo Dorsey wrapped up the inning with back-to-back strikeouts to end Buffalo’s strong start.
Adrienne Gebele, who bobbled a hit to right field in the first inning, ripped a single up the left field gap for Ohio’s first hit. From there it was a tough day for Buffalo pitcher Tori Speckman.
The senior, who owned a 2.17 ERA going into the contest, struggled all afternoon. After Gebele’s hit, Speckman walked Madison Claytor, and Pyles ripped a single up the middle to load the bases with two outs. Then Alyssa Wolfe stepped up to the plate.
The heavy-hitting Wolfe looked ready to shoot a ball into the gap to put her team on top. Instead she watched four straight balls hit the catcher’s glove to move her to first and bring Gebele across home plate for Ohio’s first run.
Speckman recovered and got Amanda Dalton to hit a fly out to end the inning. But the Bobcats could feel the momentum swinging their way and they would capitalize a few innings later.
Dorsey, who was the better pitcher on the day, stepped up to the plate and nailed a solo-homer past the left-center-field fence to put Ohio on top 2-0.
The Bobcats were feeling it then, with Gebele striking a single to left field and Claytor smacking a double down the left field line to Ohio in prime scoring position. Then Alexandria Basquez popped a ball up to shallow right field, bringing in pinch runner Erin Lashley off the tag. Claytor soon followed after a catcher error on the throw to home plate, giving the Bobcats a commanding 4-0 lead.
Dorsey, who was sensational all tournament, proceeded to close out the game and secure the MAC crown for Ohio.
The All-MAC Second-Team member was named the MAC Tournament MVP after pitching 33 innings, allowing one run, striking out 44 and allowing only six batters on base.
“It means a lot,” Dorsey said about her team’s accomplishments. “We knew that we could come out here as a team and just push through everything that we had to and all the adversity and anything that came. So we are very proud of it right now.”
She picked the right time to catch fire, propelling her team through the home stretch of the season and to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995.
“I’m just so impressed by her doing it all on both sides of the ball,” Hermanek said. “She’s just locked in right now, and that’s the best time of the season to be locked in, right? Is right now, and I’m just so proud of her.”
Now the Bobcats must prepare for the NCAA Tournament and much of the same high-level competition they faced earlier in the season. And Hermanek had a special message for those who doubted her and her team at the beginning of the year.
“The statement (about being the best in Ohio and the MAC) was true,” she said. “We knew who we are, we know our identity and [we’re] just so elated that we backed up what we say about ourselves. And [we’re] just so proud of this team for coming out here and really taking ownership of keeping the game easy, keeping the game simple, trusting each other and working to win.”