Softball Captures 11th MAC Title in School History

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - They only managed a split, but the Central Michigan University Chippewas earned their 11th Mid-American Conference title in school history on Saturday. It marks CMU's third title in the last four years.

The Chippewas entered the weekend with a "magic number" of one, meaning CMU needed one win or a Kent State loss to capture the MAC regular season title. CMU took matters into its own hands winning the opener against Bowling Green, 3-1, thanks to a strong offensive showing by sophomore Karen Hohs. However, the Chippewas fell in the nightcap, 4-3, after the Falcons broke a tie game in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single after the leadoff batter in the inning doubled.

The Chippewas are now 31-15 overall and 20-3 in the MAC. CMU enters next week's MAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed and it will play the No. 4 versus No. 5 winner on Thursday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. The MAC Tournament is being held at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio. Bowling Green is now 29-26 overall and 13-10 in the MAC. The Falcons are one of four teams fighting for the final two MAC Tournament spots on Sunday.

Things didn't start out well for CMU and starting pitcher Amber Puchalski in game one as the Falcons put together three hits in the first inning that pushed across one run to give BGSU the early advantage.

The Chippewas got a key hit from Brittany Decker in the third. On a full count, she singled to center scoring Stephanie Crews and Karen Hohs who each tallied hits earlier in the inning.

Hohs tallied her second hit of the game in the fifth with a single to right. Hohs stole second and then scored on a heads up baserunning play when Lindsey Calme hit a comebacker off the leg pitcher Liz Vrabel. The ball rebounded into foul territory and both Vrabel and the catcher went after the ball leaving home plate uncovered. Hohs was on second and went to third on the hit before breaking for home and winning the foot race to the plate giving CMU a 3-1 advantage.

Puchalski held the Falcons to just four hits after the first inning. She picked up the complete game victory to improve her record to 20-7. Puchalski fanned five and walked three.

Vrabel took the loss after going five innings and giving up five hits while fanning six. She was replaced shortly after getting hit in the leg and Lindsay Heimrich came on for the final two innings while allowing two hits.

Hohs went 3-for-4 in the opener with two stolen bases.

In game two, the Falcons again jumped out to a quick lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning. CMU tied it in the second when Sobeck reached on a fielder's choice, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single to center by Crews.

Bowling Green regained the lead with two runs in the fourth when the first four Falcons got on with three singles and a hit batter. It could have been worse but CMU nailed one runner at the plate on fielder's choice and then the final batter of the inning popped out in foul territory with the bases loaded.

Central Michigan tied the score in the fifth with an RBI single by Lindsey Calme and then Sobeck was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

But, BGSU scored in the sixth when Jenifer Kernahan led the inning off with an off-the-wall double and then with two outs, pinch hitter Ashley Zirkle blooped a single into center field scoring Marla Murphy who pinch ran for Kernahan. The Chippewas had the top of the order up in the seventh but CMU went down 1-2-3.

Jessica Garvin took the loss in the circle. She gave up eight hits while fanning six. Jody Johnson notched the win for the Falcons. She held the Chippewas to five his while striking out seven.

The two teams will wrap up the regular season with a single game on Sunday at 1 p.m.



NOTES:

* Four teams have secured spots in the six-team MAC Tournament field. Four teams are fighting for the final two spots on the last day of the regular season -- Miami, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Marshall. CMU is the No. 1 seed, Kent State the No. 2 and Western Michigan the No. 3. The final three seeds will be determined based on Sunday's results.

* Jessica Garvin gave up a run in the first inning of the nightcap. That snapped a string of 23 consecutive scoreless innings pitched.

* Amber Puchalski's 20th win of the season in the opener moved her to seventh on CMU's single season chart.

* Bowling Green's win in the nightcap snapped CMU's 30-game winning streak against the Falcons in the series.

* Karen Hohs went 4-for-8 in the doubleheader.

* Amber Puchalski's victory in game one was the 80th of her career.


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