Heading into a two-game set with Marietta College on Sunday, April 26, the John Carroll University softball team needed to take care of business if they were to clinch a bid to the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Blue Streaks’ victories, along with a few other teams’ loses around the OAC, allowed the Blue and Gold to squeak into postseason play once again.
Game one in Marietta, Ohio was all JCU, as the Blue Streaks shut out the Pioneers 5-0.
Sophomore Ann Marie Kirchner took the mound for the Blue and Gold and tossed a complete game, six-hit shutout while striking out five on the afternoon.
Kirchner touched on how much this year has meant to her, saying, “Personally, I am very proud of myself.”
She continued, “I didn’t play last year and so it took a lot of hard work over the summer and in the off season to get to where I wanted to be. I’m so happy that I’m able to contribute to our team in this way.”
At the plate, junior Taylor Tercek, sophomore Lauren Cianciolo and senior Ashlee Unrue all contributed RBIs in game one.
Game two was a much tougher task for the Blue Streaks, but at the end of the game the result was the same: a victory for JCU.
Senior Rachel Byrnes took the mound for the Blue and Gold, and was playing from behind right away as Marietta’s Kerwood hit a homerun to dead-center in the first inning, giving the Pioneers their first lead of the afternoon.
Luckily for Byrnes, her teammates had her back and scored four runs in the next half-inning, giving JCU a lead they never relinquished.
Marietta pulled within more than two runs, and the Blue Streaks eventually came out victorious 5-4 after Kirchner came on for the save in the seventh inning.
Kirchner spoke about just how much the sweep meant to JCU ,saying, “The two game sweep was absolutely crucial for our team if we wanted a chance to play in the tournament.”
She continued, saying, “I think we all realized the opportunity we had in front of us and we weren’t going to let it slip by. We have a lot of enthusiasm and confidence going into the weekend and I’m excited to see how we do.”
With the two-game sweep, the Blue and Gold finished the season at 22-15 (11-7 OAC). Postseason play for JCU begins on Friday, May 1 as they travel to Tiffin, Ohio to take on Heidelberg University in the first round of the OAC Tournament.
Byrnes spoke about the squad’s confidence heading into this weekend’s matchups saying, “Our goals, like every year, are to go undefeated at OACs and get a bid to the NCAA Tournament.”
Byrnes continued, “All of the teams that we will be matched up against this weekend are competitive, but if we play the way that we know how to play, there isn’t a team we can’t beat.”