Akron, Ohio – The University of Findlay softball team began their seventh consecutive conference tournament appearance on Thursday, May 2 and, thanks to weather delays and extra-inning contests, played into the early hours of Friday morning. 1:37am to be exact. Findlay now has a quick turnaround as they will play at 11:00am later this morning, taking on the four seed, Cedarville.
Nearly 12 hours passed from the time Findlay threw their first pitch of the day to the time they threw their last.
The Oilers, seeded seventh in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) Championship, played spoiler in their opening game when they took on the second-seeded Trevecca Nazarene Trojans.
Findlay scored their lone run of their lone run of the game in the third inning when sophomore Dylan Wiley led off with a single and later came around to score on a single by sophomore Devyn Zuro. That run was all the Oilers needed as senior pitcher Hailey Bryan turned in arguably the best performance of her career.
Findlay's all-time wins leader, Bryan allowed just five baserunners against Trevecca, which entered the game with a team batting average of .379, the best team batting average in the country. The senior pitcher threw a complete game shutout while giving up just four hits. She did not walk a batter and struck out three to earn her 51st career win, but more importantly, to keep the Oilers alive in the winners bracket.
Wiley finished with two hits, a walk, and a run scored in the tournament opener while freshman catcher Caroline Turner also had two hits.
Trevecca Nazarene, and top-seed Ohio Dominican, would both be eliminated on the first day of action, losing their first two games of the tournament.
With rain delaying play on the main field, Firestone Stadium, home of the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch league, games were pushed back. Findlay and Tiffin, winners of their first round games, arrived around 8:00pm for their second-round contest which was scheduled to start at 9:30pm. They both stood and watched as Kentucky Wesleyan and Hillsdale played into the tenth inning, a game that did not subside until 10:30. The Oilers and Dragons would finally get on the field with the first pitch being thrown at 10:41pm.
Tiffin, seeded third in the tournament, knocked off Malone in the first round by a score of 1-0 and took a similar 1-0 lead on Findlay with one run in the bottom of the second inning.
Findlay had singles in the first and second, but it was the third inning where the offense had its first good scoring opportunity. The Oilers got a leadoff triple from sophomore Sadie Gearhart. The next batter was Wiley who struck out swinging. On the strikeout, the Dragons' catcher fired a throw to third to peg Gearhart who was called out while diving back into the base.
The Oilers finally got on the board in the fifth inning after senior Salwa Al-Hajabed reached second on a two-base error by the Dragons' second baseman. Freshman Gloria Corona would pinch run and come around to score on an RBI single by Caroline Turner, tying the game at 1-1.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Dragons threatened by loading the bases with two outs, but sophomore Caragyn Yanek, facing her first batter out of the bullpen, made a diving catch, charging towards the first base line, on a little pop up that, had it fallen, would have certainly been a base hit and given the Dragons the lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Dragons again threatened as a leadoff single and sac bunt put a runner on second with one out. But two strikeouts by Yanek ended that threat and sent the game into extra innings. The first pitch of the eighth inning was thrown at 12:55am.
In the top of the eighth with one out, the Oilers' top hitter and first team all-conference performer Rebecca Harvey laced a ball to the wall in center field but was thrown out at third trying to stretch the play into a triple. The next batter hit into a groundout to end the inning.
Findlay later led off the ninth inning with a walk to Lyndsey Seamon. Freshman Traci Merriman pinch ran and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Allison Brunner who reached safely thanks to a bobbled ball. Evyn Kachenmeister advanced both runners on a sac bunt and Caroline Tuner laced a single to third that was too hot to handle, scoring Merriman and giving the Oilers the 2-1 lead at 1:18am.
That momentum did not last long as the Dragons would plate a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win in a game that ended at 1:37am.
Caragyn Yanek took the loss despite 3.2 solid innings of relief. She allowed two runs on three hits and struck out three. Megan Fisher started in the circle for Findlay and threw 4.2 innings, allowing one run on four hits.