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Falcons fall short of MAC repeat

The Falcon softball team’s roller coaster ride of a season came to an end Friday evening after being eliminated by the third seeded Miami Redhawks 2-1 in the MAC Tournament at Firestone Park in Akron. BG had battled back after an opening round loss to Miami on Wednesday by downing Eastern Michigan Thursday morning (2-1) and Western Michigan Friday morning (4-0).

The sixth seeded Falcons needed to win five games in a row after their first loss to Miami in order to repeat as MAC Champions, just as they did one year ago. The BG bats were unable to help starting pitcher Liz Vrabel who retired 13 batters in a row before Miami’s Breanna Robinson sent a solo shot over the left field fence in the bottom half of the sixth inning. The devastating blow occurred one pitch after Falcon catcher Abby Habicht dropped a tough foul pop-up. The Redhawks would also add their second run after a couple of sacrifices plated Halle Popson.

With their backs to the wall, the Falcons roughed out a close one against Eastern just 24 hours later.

Starting pitcher Emily Gouge got things going for BG in the third with a walk. Habicht then slapped a bunt passed the third basemen to reach first. Pinch runner Emmy Ramsey and Habicht both advanced on a passed ball that struck out McPherson. Lindsay Heimrich then proceeded to execute a perfect suicide squeeze bunt allowing Ramsey to barely beat out the tag. Outfielder Allison Vallas, freshman, batted in Habicht on a single up the middle.

However, the two runs were enough to outlast the Eagles. After a shaky two innings of one hit, two strike out ball, Gouge was relieved by Vrabel, who proceeded to retire her first seven batters, including five K’s before Eastern catcher Katie Grens homered in the fifth inning. Vrabel shut down the Eagles from there on out, ending the game with eight strike outs and allowing only two hits.

Vrabel would only start out against Western where she left off a day earlier. The Falcon ace would strike out 13, matching her #13 on Friday the 13th, issue one walk, only to have a no hitter spoiled in the sixth. The Bronco’s lone hit was recorded by starting pitcher Tricia VanDerSilk.

“Liz was fantastic; she showed us why she is the MAC Pitcher of the year. Every time Liz throws, she gives us a chance to win,” said Ross-Shaw.

This time around the Falcon bats let loose. They scored two in the first off of a full count home run to left by Vallas. “I knew as soon as it hit the bat that it was going out, I just wasn’t sure if it was going to stay fair. I was so excited that I almost missed first base,” said Vallas.

The Falcons would add two more insurance runs and cruised to a 4-0 victory. The win was Coach Ross-Shaw’s 200th at BGSU.

Jeanine Baca commented on the team’s thoughts about facing Miami again. “When they (Miami) beat us the first time we knew we had another opportunity to play them if we kept winning, and as we kept winning we wanted to send them home like we did last year.” This sentiment was expressed the second time around against the Redhawks. Even in defeat, the Falcons hung tough, having numerous opportunities to close the gap.

BG found themselves down one when a Redhawk right fielder belted the pitch over the left field fence in the top of the second. The hole was deepened when Miami took a 2-0 lead after a single and two fielding errors. Emily Gouge was relieved by Vrabel after giving up four hits and a walk while striking out three in 3 2/3 innings or work.

BG responded in the bottom of the fourth with a two out single by Rango and an RBI double from Baca. The Falcons could have tied the inning if it weren’t for a nice fly ball catch in the wind by Miami’s right fielder.

In the sixth McPherson lead off with an infield single only to see the team bat into an inning ending double play.

Again the Falcons threatened in the seventh after Rango lead off with a rip to left field. Baca and lone Senior Kristen Anderson could not advance Rango, both hitting hard balls to the outfield. The game ended with freshman short stop Angie Ortiz striking out.

The mood was symbolic of certain times throughout the season for the Falcons; their inability to advance and drive home runners. “We’ve got to score a run; we can’t expect to win a game if we can’t score. We rely on our pitching and defense and that is what has been carrying us,” said Ross-Shaw.

The Falcons will now turn their focus to bettering themselves in the off season. “It was disappointing that we didn’t come away with a ring, but it was a good experience to build from for next year. We have the potential to be the most dominating team that has ever come through BG. We are only losing one person and even though Kristen Anderson’s shoes will be hard to fill, I think we’ll have a great year next season,” said Vallas.

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