OAC Tourney:

A tough challenge awaits the Marietta College softball team today in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament as the fourth-seeded Pioneers take on top-seeded Capital at noon.

The game will be played at Clowson Field, Capital’s home field, in Bexley. The Crusaders (32-8, 16-2) claimed the OAC regular season title to earn home field advantage throughout the tournament.

Marietta (21-15, 11-7) earned the fourth and final seed in the tourney, finishing two games ahead of Muskingum and Ohio Northern.

The Pioneers and Crusaders squared off in a double header at Clowson Field earlier this season (April 6). The two teams split, as Capital took game one 6-5 while the Pios claimed a 6-4 victory in the night cap.

While home field advantage is usually an edge, the Pioneers actually played better on the road this season (9-5) then at home (6-6). They were also 6-4 on neutral fields.

MC is hoping to continue its road warrior status this weekend, as it searches for an OAC Tournament championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.

It won’t be easy though, as its first opponent scored runs seemingly at will in 2013. Capital ranked first in the conference in batting average (.355) and second in runs with 250 (6.25 per game).

The Crusaders also had success in the pitching department, finishing second in the OAC with a staff earned run average of 2.66.

Marietta, guided by head coach Jeanne Arbuckle, posted solid numbers in its own right with a .286 team batting average and a 3.10 ERA.

The Pioneers were led offensively this season by a late surge from Trayla Liles. Liles batted a team-leading .418 and was tied for second in the OAC with 10 home runs. She also drove in 32 runs.

Ris McDaniel (.326) and Katie Swejk (.300) are the other two every day starters hitting .300 or higher.

Kelsey Kallenbourn provided some pop with five long balls in just 52 at bats this season.

Lauren Larrick and Alexis O’Hair have pitched the bulk of the innings for Marietta this spring. Larrick posted a 10-6 record this season with a 3.16 ERA. O’Hair was 8-5 with a 3.26 ERA.

Capital, led by head coach Nan Payne, will counter with one of the top lineups in the country. Devin Boggs leads the charge with a .482 batting average and a league-leading 11 homers and 47 RBI.

Kelsey Swain (.430 avg, 1 hr, 19 rbi), Lexi Majoy (.350 avg, 6 hr, 32 rbi), Maura Rose (.331 avg, 8hr, 36 rbi) and Leanna Cotton (.324 avg, 6 hr, 29 rbi) provide support in the batting order.

Brooke Billings is the ace of the Crusaders’ pitching staff, boasting a 15-4 record and a 2.27 ERA.

Overall, the odds appear to be in Capital’s favor, but Marietta certainly possesses the talent to pull off the upset and make a postseason run.

NOTES: No. 2 John Carroll and No. 3 Mount Union will also compete in the tournament. Marietta was a combined 0-4 against the Blue Streaks and the Purple Raiders this season.