ALMA, Mich. — Senior Cassie Gaye drilled a three-run home run and sophomore Dani Steepe was outstanding in the circle to lead No. 25 Ohio Northern past No. 16 Trine (Ind.) 7-5 in the championship game of the NCAA III Regionals Monday morning at Scots Field.
The second-seeded Polar Bears advance to the NCAA Division III finals with a 31-12 record, while the top-seeded Thunder ends its season at 40-10.
Gaye blasted a three-run home run in the top of the first inning to stake the Polar Bears to a quick 3-0 lead.
Steepe (7-1) was outstanding in relief for the Polar Bears, limiting the Thunder to just one run in 5.1 innings of work to earn her fourth victory of the tournament. She allowed just one earned run in 24.2 innings of work in the tournament.
Steepe was named the Tournament MVP and Gaye, senior All-American Kimi Blewett and freshman Kelly Sheridan were all named to the All-Tournament Team.
In the top of the first, sophomore Christin Miller led off with a single up the middle and senior All-American Jackie Mangola singled through the left side two outs later to set the table for Gaye’s bomb, which was her sixth of the season and the 15th of her career.
Northern added to its lead in the top of the second, taking advantage of four Trine errors to score four unearned runs.
Freshman Adriana Sikora started the rally by drawing a 1-out walk. She later scored on an error by the TU second baseman.
With the bases loaded, Blewett lifted a sacrifice fly to foul territory in deep right field to score sophomore Colleen Baliga.
The throw home was over the head of the TU catcher, allowing Miller to score. The throw from Trine’s pitcher home to get Miller was also wild, allowing Sheridan to score the third unearned run of the play.
Trine chipped away at the lead from there on out, but the Polar Bears held on for the victory.
The Thunder got the four runs back in the bottom of the second to pull within 7-4. A single and two walks loaded the bases and a ground out made it 7-1. Back-to-back base hits scored three more runs and completed the rally.
Trine got a solo home run from Andi Gasco to pull the Thunder within 7-5 in the bottom of the fourth.
Each team threatened in the fifth and sixth innings but solid defensive plays and base-running errors kept each team off of the board.
Trine got a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh, but three consecutive ground outs ended the game and sent the Polar Bears to the finals for the second time in the last four seasons.