By BRIAN LESTER
Once again, the University of Findlay softball team reached the second day of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. It’s a huge accomplishment for the Oilers, especially when you consider only eight games separated the top eight teams in the league standings.
UF didn’t get a free pass into the tournament. It had to earn it, and fortunately, it held the tiebreaker over Hillsdale at the end of the regular season to punch its ticket to the tourney.
The Oilers were hoping to make another stellar run as the eighth seed, the way they did a year ago when they were one of the final four teams standing. The run ended, though, late Saturday morning as the Oilers were beaten 9-1 by rival Ashland in an elimination game that was called after five innings because of the run rule.
The loss hurt, no doubt, but the leauge is tough. Two of the top five seeds were done playing after day one, and those two teams (Saginaw Valley and Northwood) were ranked in the Midwest Region.
“That is the way the GLIAC is,” UF head coach Ron Ammons said. “The league is unforgiving. All of the teams are tough. We had to play very hard just to get to the tournament.”
The Oilers played hard throughout the tournament as well. They survived a wild and intense battle with top-seeded Ohio Dominican in the first round on Friday, winning 16-11 after scoring six times in the seventh inning to secure the victory.
UF was unable to carry that momentum any further, however, falling 8-4 to Grand Valley State on Friday night and and then losing to the Eagles on Saturday. There is no shame in losing to either team. Both are traditional powers in the GLIAC.
The Oilers just couldn’t get the hits against the Eagles to survive in the tourney. After Jackie Messersmith belted a home run for a 1-0 lead in the first, the Oilers only tallied one more hit. They managed only six hits total in their final two tournament games after tallying 17 in the win win over the Panthers.
“It was the same thing last night (against Grand Valley). They were getting all of the hits,” senior shortstop Emily Reynolds. “Maybe we used up all of our hits in the first game. We didn’t get the key hits when we really needed them.”
Still, the Oilers played hard throughout the tournament, and this 2014 season was a success. UF wrapped up its second consecutive winning season, finishing 23-19, and played in the tournament for the second consecutive year as well.
The six seniors on this team, Reynolds, Messersmith, Tori Allen, Courtney Dwyer, Anna Britvec and Tawna Whited, helped lead the way and helped set the tone for future success, much the way the seniors on last season’s team did. Reynolds is proud of the impact her and her senior teammates made on this program. She wishes next year’s team nothing but the best.
“We hope the younger players got a good taste of it,” Reynolds said. “We made it to the second day of the tournament again, and we’re happy about that. I hope the players coming back can build on this and be even better next year.”
If this season is any indication, the Oilers should take another step forward next season.
Follow me on Twitter: @BLester1993.