MC softball begins tourney play

Marietta College opens play in the 2014 Ohio Athletic Conference Softball Tournament today at 10 a.m. The No. 3 seed Pioneers will face rival Muskingum University, seeded second, in the first round. Ohio Northern University is the No. 1 seed and host for the tournament. The Polar Bears will play No. 4 seed John Carroll University at noon

Pioneer fans can follow all of the OAC Tournament action online. Sports Information Director Jeff Schaly will be doing play-by-play for all of the Marietta games. The audio stream can be found at

Marietta is making its ninth overall appearance in the OAC Tournament and second in a row. The Pioneers won the tournament in 1996 and have finished second on three occasions; 1985, 2006 and 2007. Marietta finished the regular season with a 21-15 overall record and went 11-7 in the OAC.

Making their league-leading 27th trip to the OAC Tournament, the Fighting Muskies bring a 23-15 overall record into the postseason. They tied for the regular season championship with Ohio Northern finishing 12-6 in league play. The Muskies have won 17 tournament titles including 10 in a row from 1998-2007, the last time they won the tournament crown.

Ohio Northern, 20-17 overall and 12-6 in the OAC, is back in the postseason after missing the tournament last spring. The Polar Bears are making their 20th trip to the league championship and have won the title four times, the last one coming in 2009. Before missing last year’s tournament, ONU had advanced to the championship game four straight years winning in 2009 and finishing second in 2010-12.

The Blue Streaks are making their seventh straight trip to the OAC Tournament and eight overall. John Carroll enters the postseason with an 18-16 overall mark and finished the OAC schedule with a 10-8 record.

Marietta will rely on the strength of its pitching staff. The Pioneers lead the OAC with a 2.55 team earned run average. Junior Alexis O’Hair leads the way with a league-best 1.87 ERA. O’Hair is 11-7 and has 57 strikeouts with just 18 walks in 127.0 innings pitched this season.

Trinity Schlabach is the Pioneers’ No. 2 pitcher. Schlabach is 8-8 with a 3.18 ERA in 83.2 innings of work. Junior Courtney Kerwood has a couple of saves and has posted a 2.24 ERA to go along with a 1-0 record.

Schlabach is Marietta’s leading hitter batting .356. She is tops on the team with 37 hits and is tied for the team lead in doubles (9), home runs (2) and runs batted in (18). Junior Brittany Curry is hitting .307 with two home runs and a team-best 18 runs scored.

Muskingum brings the top fielding team into the tournament with a .966 team fielding average. Outfielder Kayler Bevard ranks second in the OAC with a .500 batting average. The junior has banged out 63 base hits and has 15 stolen bases and 38 runs scored. Jaclyn Hess leads the Muskies with 24 runs driven in to go along with a .351 batting average.

In the circle, Muskingum is led by Ashley Gilbert. Gilbert is 10-5 with a 2.90 earned run average. She has 73 strikeouts in 111.0 innings of work. After Gilbert, the Muskies will look to Rachel Bannister and Kristin Gill. Bannister is 6-6 with a 3.26 ERA, while Gill is currently 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA.

Ohio Northern has an offensive lineup that rivals the Yankee’s Murderer’s Row of the 1920s.

The Polar Bears are batting .365 as a team and have six regulars batting over .350. Leading the way is Adriana Sikora with a .473 average, 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 32 RBI.

Christin Miller is close behind with a .444 batting average and a team-best 19 stolen bases. Colleen Baliga comes in with a .437 average.

The Polar Bears have needed all of their runs as they rank close to the bottom of the OAC in defense with a .934 team fielding average and earned run average with a 5.02 team mark. Freshman Paige Ordean is ONU’s top hurler with a 13-9 record and 4.44 ERA in 131 innings pitched. Kirsten Burden is 7-8 with a 5.71 ERA.

John Carroll counts on pitching and defense. The Blue Streaks are second in the OAC with a team fielding percentage of .959 and a 2.95 team earned run average. Rachel Byrnes has posted a 14-8 record with two saves and a 2.45 ERA in 146.0 innings of work in the circle. She is second in the OAC with 116 strikeouts. Gina Tosti is JCU’s No. 2 pitcher with a 2-5 record and 2.53 ERA.

Infielder Samantha Becker leads the Streaks with a .330 batting average, eight home runs and 22 RBI.

Outfielder Morgan Robinson is batting .325 with six home runs and 21 runs batted in.

All four teams will play twice on Friday. The winners of the first two games will meet at 2 p.m. followed by the losers from games one and two at 4 p.m.

The loser’s bracket finale is slated for 11 a.m. on Saturday with the championship game following at 1 p.m. Should the “if necessary” game be needed, it will be played on Sunday at noon