Ohio Dominican's student-athletes enjoyed their most successful year since transitioning to the GLIAC and NCAA Division II. OhioDominicanPanthers.com counts down the best moments from this past year.
#3 – Three Is Magic Number for Softball Team
It was a tale of two seasons for Ohio Dominican's softball team.
After beginning the year with a 4-18 record, the Panthers went on a tear, posting a 21-5 record in GLIAC play to capture the program's first conference title since joining the league. Along the way, ODU swept No. 6 Wayne State at home and went on the road to sweep Grand Valley State as well.
Winning the regular season title gave the Panthers the top-seed in the conference tournament, where they opened with a contest against No. 8 seed Findlay on Friday, May 1. The Panthers were going to need to have a strong tournament to qualify for the NCAA postseason – ODU entered the week ranked No. 10 in the regional standings, with the top-eight advancing.
Though ODU rallied from a 7-2 deficit to take an 11-10 lead into the seventh, the Panthers ultimately lost the opening game, immediately falling into the consolation bracket of the tournament.
ODU rebounded with a 10-9 win in an elimination game with Northwood later that afternoon, but then faced the daunting task of having to play up to three games on elimination Saturday.
With their day beginning at 10 a.m., the Panthers opened with a resounding 7-1 victory over Walsh, scoring runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings to pull away. Montana Fishel had three hits and Rachael Stanzel allowed just six hits in the complete game win.
After a half hour respite, the Panthers matched up against Ashland at 12:20 p.m., still looking to stay alive in the tournament. The contest was scoreless through three and a half innings before the Panthers cracked through with five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. ODU tallied four hits and took advantage of three Eagle errors in the frame to take the lead, then held on for a 5-2 win.
The four hits in that inning, in fact, were the lone hits of the game for ODU's offense, but it was more than enough for Stanzel, who went the distance for a second time.
With no time to rest and having to shift to a different diamond at Findlay's Marathon Complex, the Panthers matched up against Grand Valley at 2:45 p.m. for their third contest of the day. Stanzel started and threw the first two innings – bringing her total to 16 innings pitched on the day – before yielding to Brandis Fishel.
Fishel pitched four solid innings of relief, and the offense exploded in the third and fourth innings. Trailing 2-1, Taylor Thomas launched a three-run homer, and Kelsey Albanese had an RBI double to put ODU on top 5-2 in the third.
Then, in the fourth, it was Allie Hinton delivering the big blow, crushing a three-run homer to make it 9-2, and she rapped a two-run single in the sixth to give the Panthers the victory via run rule, 11-3.
Hinton had three hits and drove in six, while Thomas also totaled three hits with three RBI.
On the day, Stanzel allowed just 17 hits and four earned runs in her 16 innings pitched.
Though the Panthers capitulated in the tournament title game to Wayne State, ODU's performance Friday afternoon and all day Saturday was more than enough to elevate the team in the regional rankings. The Panthers moved up five spots to earn their first berth in the NCAA postseason, but couldn't have done it without a stellar Saturday showing in Findlay.