ALLENDALE, Mich. – OK, so Allendale, Mich., isn't exactly New York City. The burg is located 20 minutes outside of Grand Rapids in picturesque farm country. Nevertheless, AU head softball coach Sheilah Gulas believed her team could bring drive time to this Western Michigan town.
Saturday morning (May 5) against Saint Joseph's in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional playoffs at Grand Valley State that never happened. SJC pitcher Megan Ramey baffled the Eagles for seven innings and benefitted from a game-saving catch from center fielder Kristin Paris as the Pumas (36-19) stalled the Eagles' plans for a 2-0 tournament start with a 1-0 victory.
"We didn't have any bat speed," lamented Gulas after watching Ramey limit the Eagles to three singles. "We were cutting across the plate instead of swinging or driving the ball. I haven't seen these swings all year. We have to find a way to fix it. I'll tell you this, two runs in two tournament games isn't going to cut it."
The loss means Ashland (41-16) has to play the winner of Saturday afternoon's Grand Valley State-Bellarmine game in an elimination game Saturday at 4 p.m. SJC advances to Sunday's title game. Someone will have to beat the Pumas twice to take the title away from them. Entering this tournament, SJC had a six-game losing streak.
Ramey (17-9) was in control throughout the game. AU hitters popped out on the infield eight times. With the exception of one play, the Pumas never had to extend themselves defensively.
That one exception came in the third inning with the game scoreless. With two outs leadoff hitter Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Washington) reached on an infield single. Designated player Jerrica Young (Loudonville, Ohio) followed with another infield base hit and AU had runners on first and second base.
Third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) drove the ball to the gap in right-center field. Paris, on the dead run, extended her glove and made a running catch right in front of the fence. Ashland had only one hit after that – a sixth-inning single by Kelley that extended her hitting streak to a season-high 17 games.
"That was a shot and she made a great play," said Gulas. "But we should have taken advantage of some other opportunities."
Twice (in the second and fourth innings), AU first baseman Franki Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) drew walks to lead off the inning. Both times she was sacrificed to second base. In both instances, she never advanced to third
The Eagles received a stellar pitching performance from senior Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio). She went the distance and allowed a run on three hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. Knerem is 28-6.
The game's only run scored in the fourth inning. Left fielder Kylie Weeks singled to right field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. An infield grounder got her to third base. She had no trouble reaching home plate when catcher Brittnie Boerema tripled off the right-field fence. That was Boereman's team-leading fourth triple of the season.
This was Ashland's first 1-0 loss since losing at Grand Valley State on Apr. 14. AU has been shut out three times this season.
AU is 1-1 against GVSU this season. The Eagles are 2-1 against Bellarmine. One of those wins was a 2-1 verdict on Friday in the first round of the tournament.