UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. – Here's a story about the change of seasons that does not include the leaves falling, global warming or how much snow Cleveland has received in the past month.
In college athletics, the change of seasons is a constant. Players come and go and one of the challenges of the profession is maintaining success through that ebb and flow.
The 2011 softball season came to a close for the Ashland University Eagles on Sunday (May 15) at Saginaw Valley State in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament. In a game that began on Saturday and was finished on Sunday afternoon, the Eagles lost to Indianapolis, 8-0 in five innings. AU ends the year with a 33-19 record. At the tournament, Ashland was 1-2, losing twice to Indianapolis (36-13-1) and picking up a win against Northern Kentucky.
All seasons must end and while this one stopped short of what the Eagles desired, it is evident that the one facet of Ashland's program that has remained consistent is success. This was AU's third consecutive trip to the NCAA postseason. It is the second straight year that the Eagles won at least a game in the playoffs. AU won 20 or more conference games for the third consecutive season.
This team loses three senior starters – outfielders Lindsey Brandt (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) and Erica Miller (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) – and pitcher-designated player Logan Hursey (Zanesville, Ohio/John Glenn). All three earned All-GLIAC honors during their career and all three can be found in the school record book.
Replacing that trio will not be easy, but there is a strong returning nucleus. That group has plenty of playoff experience. The latest dose of that came against Indianapolis, the second overall seed in the tournament.
When this playoff encounter began on Saturday night, the Eagles had a tremendous opportunity to put the 'Hounds in an early hole. In the top of the first inning, the Eagles used two singles and a walk from Indy starter and winner Jennifer DeMotte (22-6) to load the bases. The sophomore escaped the jam when she got second baseman Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) out on a fly ball to shortstop.
That missed opportunity came back to haunt the Eagles when Indy broke out for eight runs in the second inning. The stanza started with a single by Jessica Breeden and a run-scoring double by Lauren Edwards, who moved to third when AU committed a throwing error on the play. Then shortstop Krysta Bradford reached on a fielder's choice with Edwards staying put at third.
Second baseman Jamie Keltz followed that with a three-run home run to left field off of Ashland starter and loser Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio). That was the 41st home run of Keltz's career, she started the year second in school history in career homers. Indy followed that up with a pair of singles before the game was suspended on Saturday evening.
The game resumed Sunday at 2:30 p.m., and moments after the re-start, Breeden belted a three-run homer to give the 'Hounds an eight-run lead.
AU ended the game with five hits, three by shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) and two by Hursey. Woody had three singles and Hursey had a single and a double.
DeMotte went the first four innings to get the victory. DeMotte gave up four of the Ashland hits and did not strike out a batter. She walked two. Edwards pitched the fifth inning and allowed a hit.
The loss dropped Knerem's record to 26-9.
Indianapolis now plays the host, Saginaw Valley State. Indy must defeat SVSU twice to win this side of the regional bracket.