EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – With a walkoff hit and a distant coin toss 30 minutes later, the SIUE softball team has earned a spot in the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Oxford, Alabama.
SIUE, the No. 8 seed for the OVC Tournament, will play fifth-seeded Eastern Kentucky in a 12:30 p.m. elimination game Wednesday. The winner of that game earns a spot in the six-team, double-elimination portion of the tournament.
"All we needed was the opportunity to have a chance," said SIUE Interim Head Coach Jessica Jones. "Once we have that chance, it's one game at a time."
To get to that point, SIUE had to grit and grind to say the least. After dropping Sunday's opening game 10-5, the Cougars were behind 4-0 against Austin Peay ace Morgan Rackel heading into the fourth inning.
Zoe Schafer singled to lead off the fourth and Kylie Lane was inserted as her pinch runner. Alana Cobb-Adams, who pinch hit, drew a walk after Lane stole second. Abby Marlow made it bases loaded when she reached on an infield error, one of five Austin Peay errors in game two.
Jade Kranawetter, also a pinch hitter, reached on an infield error that scored Lane followed by Cobb-Adams, who plated home on another error.
SIUE pulled within one run in the sixth. Cobb-Adams scored an unearned run off an Austin Peay miscue.
The excitement level heightened in the bottom of the seventh. Micah Arps, pinch running after a Conner Cutright walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bailley Concatto and scored on a single by Cobb-Adams.
Emily Ingles went the distance in the circle for the Cougars, shutting down an explosive Austin Peay offense later after yielding runs early.
Kloe Hilbrenner, a freshman, led off the bottom of the eighth, blasting the ball to right center and then legging out a triple. That led to Kranawetter, another freshman, who looped a single to right field for the game winner. SIUE won 5-4, its first extra-inning victory of the season. The Cougars head into the postseason with a 16-27 record.
"They took a game from Austin Peay, who is a great team," said Jones.
If only that was all to the day for the Cougars.
With all of the games completed in the OVC and three sets of ties among the top nine teams, the only way to determine whether SIUE or Tennessee Tech would take the eighth seed was to have a coin flip in the OVC offices between potential No. 1 seeds Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri.
With the coin toss going SEMO's way, that meant SIUE was the No. 8 seed because of SIUE's head-to-head record against SEMO being better than Tennessee Tech.
2019 OVC Softball Championship Schedule – Choccolocco Park (Oxford, Ala.)
Wednesday, May 8
Game 1* - #6 Belmont vs. #7 UT Martin – 10 a.m.
Game 2* - #5 Eastern Kentucky vs. #8 SIUE – 12:30 p.m.
Game 3 - #3 Austin Peay vs. Game 1 winner – 3 p.m.
Game 4 - #4 Murray State vs. Game 2 winner – 5:30 p.m.
* - Game 1 and 2 are single elimination
Thursday, May 9
Game 5 - #2 Jacksonville State vs. Game 3 winner – 10 a.m.
Game 6 - #1 Southeast Missouri vs. Game 4 winner – 12:30 p.m.
Game 7 – Game 4 loser vs. Game 5 loser – 3 p.m.
Game 8 – Game 3 loser vs. Game 6 loser – 5:30 p.m.
Friday, May 10
Game 9 – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner – 11 a.m.
Game 10 – Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner – 1:30 p.m.
Game 11 – Game 10 loser vs. Game 9 winner – 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 11
Game 12 – Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 winner – 11 a.m.
(If necessary, Game 13 follows approx. 30 min. after Game 12)
All times central