By Blake Moore
NEW CONCORD — The second-seeded Ohio Northern softball program needed just two runs in the first inning off a Hailee Loughman (Brookville) single and an Abby Elliott (Loveland/Ursuline) double to claim a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Muskingum and advance to game five of the 2019 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament at Donna J. Newberry Field on Saturday.
With the victory, the Polar Bears improve to 22-18 overall on the season. More importantly, ONU stays alive in the OAC Tournament, booking a matchup with third-seeded Baldwin Wallace in game five.
In addition, the victory marks the 100th career coaching win for third-year head coach Jackie Price. She has won 79 games in three seasons at her alma mater after recording 21 wins in two seasons at Hiram.
The Muskies fell to 31-11 on the season and were the first team eliminated from this year's tournament with the loss.
Ohio Northern jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after the first inning in Saturday's elimination game. Loughman smashed an RBI single off the right field fence to kick off the scoring before Elliott tacked on the second run with an RBI double down the right field line.
Muskingum pitcher Rachel Eberling answered in the second inning with a solo home run over the center field wall, making the deficit just 2-1.
From there, both sides combined for just four total hits over the final five innings.
Senior pitcher Kaitlin Surdej (Lancaster, N.Y./Central) was called upon to pitch game four after tossing game one against Baldwin Wallace. She came through with an impressive seven-inning outing, scattering two hits and one earned run with four strikeouts.
The Polar Bears out-hit the Muskies 7-2 overall in Saturday's meeting.
Game five was suspended until 1 p.m. on Sunday morning. The game will resume play with one out in the home half of the fourth inning and Baldwin Wallace holding a 2-1 lead. The championship game will be played at 2:30 p.m. with an "if necessary" game scheduled for 4:30 p.m.