By Tim Glon
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The Ohio Northern softball team scored four times in the third inning and went on to defeat No. 19-ranked Saint Mary's (Ind.) 5-0 in Game 3 of the NCAA III Softball Notre Dame, Indiana Regional Tournament on a wet Saturday morning at the Purcell Athletic Fields.
The Polar Bears (32-9 overall) advance to the finals and will play for the Regional title on Sunday at Noon. Northern will face the winner of Saturday afternoon's loser's bracket game needing just one more victory to win the double-elimination tournament.
The Belles (36-6 overall) move to the loser's bracket and will face Case Western Reserve or Mount Aloysius (Pa.) in an elimination game on Saturday at 4 pm.
"We came out ready to play right from the start," ONU head coach Jackie Price said. "This was a very big win for our program. We were solid in all three phases. I really like were we are as a team right now."
Northern plated four runs in the bottom of the third inning to take control of the game.
Four consecutive one-out singles by sophomore Mallory Taylor (Olmsted Falls), sophomore Lexie Hess (Mount Vernon), senior Jenna Hollar (Lima/Bath) and sophomore Alicia Swierz (Deerfield/Southeast) got the first run in.
Sophomore Gabby Stewart (Union, Ky./St. Henry) grounded one back to the pitcher, but Hess scored when the SMC catcher dropped the throw home and it was 2-0.
ONU got an insurance run in the fifth when Loughman singled home Swierz to make it 5-0.
Senior Kirsten Lightel (Tallmadge) threw a 3-hit shutout, striking our four, to improve to 20-3 on the season.
Lightel now has 66 career wins, tying the school record set by Cortney Cash from 2007-10.
SMC put a runner on third base in each of the first two innings, but Lightel worked out of the jam each time to keep the game scoreless.
"It was big to keep them from scoring in those first two innings," Lightel said. "I just focused on the batter and making good pitches and it worked out."