|Falcons have fresh start (05-08-13)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 08 May 2013 08:09|
Bowling Green's softball team is striving to capitalize on a fresh start this week.
The Falcons - who had a disappointing Mid-American Conference season - can redeem themselves in the conference tournament at Akron's Firestone Stadium.
BG faces Ohio to begin the double-elimination tournament this morning at 11.
The Falcons are the seventh-seed in the tournament after being picked as the favorite to win the MAC East Division.
But BG was only 9-13 in the MAC to tie Ohio for third place in the East. Ohio won the tiebreaker and is the No. 6 seed.
The Falcons are 26-22 overall, while Ohio is 26-27.
"We've learned from every game and now it's focusing on the next chapter in our book," BG sophomore pitcher Paris Imholz said.
The Falcons returned seven position players and two pitchers from last season when they were 36-22 overall and second in the East at 15-7.
"We're responsible for how it continues," Imholz said. "The regular-season is behind us. It's nice we're even with everyone else now."
The tournament champion earns the MAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
"Anything can happen now," BG coach Shannon Salsburg said. "It's about four days of softball and we can put together four days. There is one bid to the NCAA tournament and it is in our hands to decide what our fate is."
POSITIVE: Although BG is 5-9 in its last 14 games, Salsburg was encouraged by her team's play Sunday in its season-ending 5-4 loss at Northern Illinois.
"That was the first time in a while that I believed we played the way we can," Salsburg said. "They just played care free and they played hard. Even though we lost, it was a loss that you could say we gave it everything we had."
STRENGTHS: Pitching and defense have been BG's strengths this season.
In MAC games only, BG sophomore Jamie Kertes was first in the conference with a 1.49 earned-run average and Imholz was fifth at 2.27. Both also pitched well as freshmen.
"They've been able to adjust and improve," Salsburg said. "They've both matured on the mound. There have been times they haven't had their best stuff, but they've still been successful because they've adjusted and because they've had other pitchers to go to. They're competitors and they do a great job."
The Falcons also have been solid defensively overall with just 52 errors in 48 games, although they've made 25 errors in their last 18 games.
HITTING: The Falcon offense probably will determine how the team fares this weekend, assuming the pitching and defense are good.
BG is hitting just .216 overall and the average is only .180 when the averages of Paige Berger (.364) and Hannah Fulk (.295) are taken out.
"We haven't had that streak where everyone feels good and we can get rolling," Salsburg said. "There's been no real consistency."
The Falcons have scored two or fewer runs in 11 of their last 16 games.
"That puts a lot of pressure on our pitching and defense," Salsburg said. "That's a tough place to be (low-scoring games) all of the time. "
FINISH: Berger is closing her career with a solid season. The senior first baseman is hitting .364 with six home runs and 21 runs batted in.
"She's worked so hard and been such a great leader for four years," Berger said. "She's been so consistent. She deserves to go out on this kind of year."
FORMAT: The MAC tournament is heavily weighted in favor of the top two seeds. Top-seeded Ball State and No. 2 Kent State received byes to the winners bracket semifinals. They only need three victories to win the tournament.
No. 3 Central Michigan and No. 4 Northern Illinois earned byes to the quarterfinals.
BG needs five victories to win the tournament.
"We need our best teams to always move forward to the NCAA tournament because they represent our entire league," Salsburg said. "When you're in our shoes, you feel a little differently. But it's the right format because our goal is to send the best team to the NCAAs."
The top four seeds all lost their first game in the tournament last season, although No. 2 Miami went onto win the title by beating No. 6 Central Michigan in the championship.
REMATCH: The Falcons and Ohio split two games in BG April 6-7.
Ohio was a 5-1 winner in Game 1, while BG posted a 3-2 victory in Game 2.
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