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Rockets eliminated from NCAA Tourney on walk-off homer

The Toledo softball team battled to the very end, but saw its dream season come to an end on a two-run walk-off home run in a 2-0 loss to Illinois May 18 at the NCAA Lexington Regional in Kentucky.

Sophomore Erin Hunt pitched a brilliant game, shutting down the Illini until Kiana Sherlund belted a 2-0 pitch just over the left-field wall with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Sophomore pitcher Erin Hunt held Illinois scoreless until the final inning of Saturday’s afternoon game.

The loss ended the season and the Cinderella story for Toledo (29-28), which made its first appearance in the NCAA Championships since 1992 after winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament as a No. 7 seed last weekend.

With the win, Illinois advances to an elimination game vs. Virginia Tech May 18. The winner of that game will face No. 14 seed Kentucky Sunday, May 19.

“We just talked in the locker room about how proud we are of this team and how far they’ve come,” said Head Coach Joe Abraham. “Once again, this team showed they can play with anybody, including the top Power Five teams in the country. We were right there in the seventh inning, and Erin was dealing. Illinois had to earn everything, and while it stinks to lose, you can live with it. Erin is upset, but she was playing in Division II last year and now she’s shutting out Illinois and holding down Kentucky fairly well.”

For nearly the entire game, Hunt had Illinois off balance, striking out six and forcing the Illini hitters to swing at tough pitches. She worked out of jams in the third, fourth and sixth, but Illinois never really hit her hard until Sherlund’s line-drive homer.

“I’m living every little girl’s dream,” Hunt said. “I don’t take anything for granted. Every pitch, I’m happy to be here, lucky to be here. As Coach Joe said, I came from D-II and never thought I’d be on this stage. I looked at D-I schools, but no one ever bit. Coach Joe was actually the only coach who did, and without him I wouldn’t be playing college softball. I’m just taking it all in and enjoying the experience.”

Toledo had its best chances to score in the third and fourth innings when it put two runners on each time, but the Rockets were never able to get the hit they needed to get on the scoreboard.

Despite ending the season with a tough loss, Abraham said an experience like this will be one he and his team will remember for the rest of their lives.

“It’s already sunk in for me,” Abraham said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. As it sinks in for them, it’s going to be pretty cool thing to look back on in the upcoming months and years.”

Softball falls to Kentucky in first game of Lexington Regional

The Toledo softball team opened the NCAA Lexington Regional May 17 with a 7-2 loss to Kentucky in Lexington.

Toledo took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on five consecutive singles, but the Wildcats countered with four runs in the bottom of the first and added three more in the fifth to clinch the victory.

Sophomore pitcher Erin Hunt struck out four Kentucky batters May 17 in the NCAA Lexington Regional.

Toledo’s eight hits in the contest matched Kentucky’s, but the Rockets were not able to get any timely hits after the first inning.

Sophomore Erin Hunt took the loss, pitching well for much of the game despite the final score as she struck out four batters on the day.

“The better team came out on top, but we’re proud that we showed that we can we play with this type of team,” Head Coach Joe Abraham said. “Because of the way we played in the [Mid-American Conference] Tournament last week, we were confident throughout this whole game, even going into the seventh inning.”

The Wildcats finished the regular-season ranked 16th in the NCAA RPI with a 34-22 overall record and 14-10 ledger in the Southeastern Conference. Despite being a powerhouse, Abraham and the Rockets weren’t phased coming into the game.

“In that first inning, we weren’t the least bit intimidated, so it didn’t surprise me that we came out with two runs in the first,” Abraham said. “Our girls can flat out rake. I’m surprised we didn’t get more, frankly.”

Toledo saw eight of nine batters record a hit, and runs were brought in from sophomore Bekah Yenrick and junior Morgan Paaverud.

The Rockets’ next game is Saturday, May 18, at 2:30 p.m. when they’ll face Illinois in an elimination game. The winner of that contest will play the loser of the Kentucky-Virginia Tech game, which will be played May 18 at noon.

Got your plates? UToledo pride ready to roll

The University of Toledo is proud to announce that drivers now have a choice of two UToledo specialized designs when ordering their Ohio license plates — a UToledo logo plate and a Rocket icon plate.

Any Ohio resident with a valid driver’s license may order the UToledo collegiate plates for their vehicles by either stopping at any Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles agency or visiting the Ohio BMV website. In addition to annual license registration fees, UToledo specialized plates cost $35, with $25 directly supporting UToledo student scholarships.

Dr. Michele Soliz, associate vice president for student success and inclusion, said she is proud to display UToledo specialized plates on her vehicle. More than 400 Ohio drivers currently use UToledo specialty plates on their vehicles.

“We’re pleased to offer our alumni and other stakeholders an additional opportunity to show their Rocket pride wherever they go,” President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Our goal is to get hundreds of UToledo collegiate plates on the road over the next few months to help fund student scholarships and raise awareness of the University.”

“Along with wearing Rocket gear, flying a UToledo flag at home or contributing to the University through the Foundation, purchasing UToledo specialty plates is another great way our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and our athletics fans can promote UToledo,” Bonnie Murphy, associate vice president for auxiliaries, said.

“While the University logo plate has been available for several years, last fall we were able to quickly gather more than the 200 signatures required to petition the BMV to produce a newly designed Rocket plate, which we anticipate will be very popular among Rocket fans,” Murphy said.

UToledo plates may be purchased through the BMV at any time throughout the year, and also may be used for vanity plates. Once purchased, it takes approximately three weeks for Ohio collegiate plates to be delivered via the U.S. Postal Service.

For more details about UToledo specialty plates, including all associated costs and other frequently asked questions, visit the UToledo license plate website.

Rocket softball team prepares to open NCAA Regionals against Kentucky

The Toledo softball team (29-26) will face No. 14 seed Kentucky (33-22) at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, in Lexington, Ky., in first-round regional action of the 2019 NCAA Softball Championships.

The game from John Cropp Stadium will be carried on ESPN3.

The 2019 MAC Champion Toledo Rockets will play No. 14 seed Kentucky in the second game of the NCAA Lexington Regional.

The Rockets are coming off a weekend in which they won the first Mid-American Conference Tournament title in program history. Toledo won six games in the tournament as the No. 7 seed, including a five-game tear in the loser’s bracket, taking down No. 4 Northern Illinois, No. 2 Kent State, No. 1 Miami and No. 3 Ohio.

Toledo most recently won the MAC regular-season title in 1992, but this was the first MAC Tournament crown for the program.

The winner of the Toledo-Kentucky game will play the winner of the Illinois-Virginia Tech game Saturday, May 18, at noon. The first-round losers will meet at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

The champion will be determined by one or two games Sunday, May 19.

The NCAA Regionals are played in a double-elimination format, meaning it takes two losses to be eliminated from the tournament.

Go to the NCAA website to see the full tournament bracket.

Toledo golfer ties for 12th place at NCAA Louisville Regional

University of Toledo senior Duncan McNeill closed out his collegiate career by tying for 12th place at the 2019 NCAA Louisville Regional.

The tournament, which included five top 25 teams and 16 of the top 100 players in the nation, was held at the par-71, 7,217-yard University of Louisville Golf Club.

Senior Duncan McNeill tied for 12th place at the NCAA Louisville Regional.

“It was great competing at regionals again, and it’s always nice to play in such a high-quality field,” McNeill said. “It’s a nice way to end my college career, and it will always be something cool to look back on.”

McNeill finished with a two-under par 211 (73-67-71), marking the lowest 54-hole totals of his collegiate career. He finished second in the 75-player field with 40 pars and registered just two bogeys over his final 45 holes.

He finished five shots behind medalist Tripp Kinney of Iowa State. Kinney carded a seven-under par 206 (69-65-72) and was the only individual to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships.

“It was a really fun battle to be in today,” Head Coach Jeff Roope said. “Having something to play for and to be in the fight is always where you want to be. Duncan played solid, and his putting was still outstanding. There was fight in him the whole week, and he can be proud of his effort. I know the rest of the Rockets are proud. I know the rest of the team is anxious to follow in Duncan’s footsteps at the national level and compete with the best the NCAA has to offer.”

In Wednesday’s round, McNeill posted birdies on No. 4 and No. 14 and had to settle for bogeys on No. 8 and No. 18.

McNeill is the third Rocket to compete in the NCAA Regionals as an individual. Chris Selfridge tied for 25th place in 2013 and 10th place in 2015, while Otto Black tied for 55th place in 2016.

No. 1 Oklahoma State captured the regional title with a 14-under par 838 and will be joined at the NCAA Championships by No. 11 Auburn (842), No. 25 Baylor (845), No. 21 Louisville (859) and No. 13 North Florida (860).

Employees honored with Outstanding Staff Awards

Five employees took home the University’s 2019 Outstanding Staff Awards.

More than 60 nominees were celebrated at a May 6 ceremony in the Thomas and Elizabeth Brady Engineering Innovation Center. The event was hosted by Human Resources on behalf of President Sharon L. Gaber.

Winners this year were:

Laura M. Brown, academic accommodation specialist, compliance, in the Department of Student Disability Services. She joined the University in 2014 as a secretary in the College of Business and Innovation, and is a graduate of UToledo with a bachelor of arts degree.

“Laura is the face of Student Disability Services at the University. She is extremely knowledgeable, compassionate and kind in a very busy and demanding environment,” one nominator wrote. “She effortlessly manages the daily operations of the office while providing resources and guidance for new and continuing students, parents, faculty and staff. Navigating resources and academic accommodations can sometimes be complicated for students with disabilities, but Laura provides a consistent and friendly contact every step of the way.” Another noted, “Laura is an efficient and talented employee who engages in process improvements and creating efficiencies. Her work is continuously done at a very high standard, and Laura is always willing to share her knowledge with others on her team. Laura helps to represent the absolute best of the University.”

Betsy Buschmann, registered medical assistant clinical supervisor in the Gastroenterology Clinic in UToledo Medical Center. She has worked at the hospital since 2014.

“Betsy has a great passion for what she does and it shows in her work,” a patient wrote. “She has always taken my calls, got answers for me in a timely manner, and had patience with me regardless of what the issue may have been or how many times I may have contacted her. She is always willing to help me, and I have seen her take the time to help others when needed. Not everyone enjoys going to the doctor, but her positive and friendly personality makes it much more rewarding when entering the clinic.” Another wrote, “I always feel as if I am the only patient that is being seen because of the way that Betsy ensures that the flow of my visit goes smoothly.” Another noted, “She is an inspiration to others.”

Catherine Chengges, administrative coordinator in the Department of English Language and Literature in the College of Arts and Letters, and instructor in both the Jesup Scott Honors College and the College of Arts and Letters. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University.

“Literally nothing in our department would work well without Cathy Chengges. She not only makes sure that we have humane teaching times, she also makes sure that we are teaching classes that reasonably complement one another,” one nominator noted. Another wrote, “Cathy Chengges has been a steady, supporting presence in the English Department for many years. Her work in creating the extremely unwieldy course schedule for the English Department, semester after semester, is remarkable. She is a scheduling superhero. I hate to think that she will ever retire.” “She is the most professional, competent, exceptional person on so many levels. She is my go-to person who I can ask just about anything, epitomizing what I feel defines the highest qualities of University spirit and character,” another wrote.

Lisa Edwards, secretary in the Department of Art in the College of Arts and Letters. She joined the University in 2014.

“Lisa is the absolute heart of our department. She is always positive, helpful, organized and so on top of everything,” one nominator wrote. “She works selflessly and passionately to make everyone’s life better — especially for our students and prospective students. Her positive attitude is infectious and makes the whole department a better place.” “Lisa’s reliability is almost unfathomable until you get to work with her,” another wrote. “She is excellence performed every day; from urgent tasks that overtake the long-term projects she is always working on, to the consistency of keeping calendars for the entire department’s goings on, she is always on top, sorting out issues, and stopping problems even before they are able to arise. Lisa is truly a role model for professionalism and excellence.”

Sherri Kaspar, director of parking and transportation in Auxiliary Services. She joined the University in 2004 as event manager for the Toledo Police Department. A UToledo alumna, she received a master’s degree in recreation administration in 2004.

“Ms. Kaspar inspires others to do excellent work and promotes the professional goals of those she works witrh. She takes positivity and applies it to every employee not to mention the many students whom she directs,” one nominator wrote. “She consistently monitors her program, employees and volunteer retirees who work with her. After seeing her in action for five years, she is in a position where no one is consistently pleased with all aspects of parking simultaneously as the daily variable issues she deals with are never the same. Her commitment to excellence in her area is exemplary and deserves to be brought to the attention of the University community,” one nominator wrote. “She runs a tight ship and cares for her employees, and we all care for her.”

Receiving the University’s 2019 Outstanding Staff Awards were, from left, Catherine Chengges, Sherri Kaspar, Betsy Buschmann, Laura M. Brown and Lisa Edwards.

Assistant provost receives Hymore Award

Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney, assistant provost for student success and retention in the Office of the Provost, is the 2019 recipient of the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award.

She received the honor named for the longtime executive secretary May 6 at the Outstanding Staff Awards in the Thomas and Elizabeth Brady Engineering Innovation Center.

Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney received the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award from Wendy Davis, associate vice president and chief human resources officer, left, and University President Sharon L. Gaber.

The award is presented annually to an individual whose work defines the core values of the University in Hymore’s spirit of support, encouragement and service.

“In the two decades Dr. Fischer-Kinney has dedicated to the University, her decisions have always been shaped with the student in mind,” a nominator wrote. “She constantly seeks student feedback on various issues in order to ensure the best outcome for the student. This allows her to stay grounded and make sure decisions are best for the current generation of students.”

Fischer-Kinney has worked at the University 21 years, starting as an academic program coordinator in the Chemical Engineering Department. She also has served as director of student services in the College of Nursing; director of New Student Orientation Programs; associate dean and interim dean of YouCollege; and director of success coaching.

“Dr. Fischer-Kinney is an outstanding supervisor, mentor and student advocate,” a nominator wrote. “She tirelessly champions efforts that impact student success and retention. Additionally, she has transformed the success coaching initiative from a raw idea into a powerful movement that is truly impacting student lives.”

Another noted that in addition to her many responsibilities, Fischer-Kinney always takes the time to serve as a success coach for students each semester.

“Many students struggle to find their ambition, but Dr. Fischer-Kinney helps instill motivation to allow the student to discover their full academic potential,” a nominator wrote. “Regardless of how busy her schedule may be, Dr. Fischer-Kinney always makes time to be there for the student. They value her as an advocate who will help them reflect on their college and life goals, and connect them to the resources and tools. Dr. JFK, as students call her, always carves out time to focus on the individual at hand.

“Success coaching and retention work can be challenging. Every day coaches hear a variety of student concerns or chase after students with assorted academic, financial and personal issues bubbling up. Dr. JFK is committed to an open, candid and warm environment where we can embrace a team approach, lean on each other as needed, and grow from each other.”

Fischer-Kinney received a bachelor’s degree in business administration majoring in marketing, and master of education and doctoral degrees in higher education from the University.

Families invited to Earth and Space Exploration Day at Ritter Planetarium May 18

A graduate student at The University of Toledo who aspires to someday teach at a planetarium went above and beyond to elevate an annual event aimed at inspiring and motivating children to engage with science.

From playing hide-and-seek moon using binoculars to creating a pocket solar system to scale to using a tub of water to explain rising sea levels and climate change, this year’s Earth and Space Exploration Day at Ritter Planetarium will feature a new set of hands-on activities in astronomy and earth science using interactive demonstrations in collaboration with NASA and the National Informational STEM Education (NISE) Network.

Heidi Kuchta received kits from NASA and the National Informational STEM Education Network that will be distributed during Earth and Space Exploration Day Saturday, May 18, at Ritter Planetarium.

Heidi Kuchta, who started working as an assistant at Ritter Planetarium five years ago as a freshman, applied for and secured one of 350 kits distributed nationwide.

“I love that families in our community will have something incredibly interesting to do and stuff to take home,” Kuchta said. “With the support of the NISE Network and NASA, we are able to add a wonderful spark to our annual Astronomy Day by expanding and escalating the overall fun, learning experience for children.”

Earth and Space Exploration Day will take place Saturday, May 18, from noon to 4 p.m. at Ritter Planetarium. The free, public event also will include planetarium shows running in full dome every hour starting at 12:30 p.m., as well as solar observing, weather permitting.

“From the beginning, Heidi has shown tremendous dedication to our outreach efforts,” Alex Mak, associate director of Ritter Planetarium, said. “This workshop is just one example of her ability to expand upon our traditional educational mission.”

Children use binoculars and play hide-and-seek moon with a kit from NASA and the National Informational STEM Education Network.

Kuchta earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and geology from UToledo last year and is pursuing her master’s in an accelerated teaching program in the Judith Herb College of Education.

“A lot of planetariums are in schools, so I thought this innovative path would be a good way to combine education and what I love to do here,” Kuchta said. “At a planetarium, we only have students for a short period of time. They’ll learn here, but, more importantly, it will get them asking questions, expand their curiosity, and maybe nourish the dream of becoming the scientists who get people to Mars or become the first person to walk on Mars.”

Kuchta’s connection to the cosmos began as a baby, according to family legend.

“My mom took me to a planetarium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when I was a few months old because she was chaperoning a trip for one of my older siblings,” Kuchta said.

Ritter Planetarium proved to be the deciding factor in choosing a college.

“During a campus tour, I was hooked when we walked through the planetarium and checked out the telescope,” Kuchta said.

Kuchta helps put on planetarium shows that explain current celestial phenomena and leads tours from different groups of visitors ranging from residents of a senior center to a preschool class. She also helps create content.

“Heidi is creative, energetic, and always willing to find new ways to help people learn more about the universe,” Mak said. “She has a bright future.”

Toledo softball team to face Kentucky in NCAA Regionals

The Toledo softball team (29-26) will face No. 14 seed Kentucky (33-22) at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, in Lexington, Ky. in first-round regional action of the 2019 NCAA Softball Championships.

The Rockets are bracketed alongside Virginia Tech (45-9) and Illinois (32-23), and are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1992.

The Rockets react when they learn they will play Kentucky in the 2019 NCAA Softball Championships. The team watched the selection show in the Savage Arena Sunday night.

“We were pretty sure it would be Kentucky, so it didn’t surprise me,” Head Coach Joe Abraham said. “They’re a good SEC team, so it’s obviously going to be very difficult, but we played Florida State close, so anything can happen. All of those teams have good pitchers, so the key for us is good, solid pitching and to make all of the plays. Any game is winnable for us. Yeah, we’re an underdog, but not so much of an underdog that we can’t win games.”

“This is just exciting,” senior second baseman Megan Choate said. “We just won the MAC, and I think the team isn’t really over that. Being in the room tonight, you could just feel the vibe, and it was really exciting. Knowing that I get to play a few more games with this team moved me to tears. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but now we have at least two more games. It’s just exciting being able to put the uniform on and play with the girls a little bit more.”

The Rockets are coming off the Mid-American Conference Tournament, where they won the first tourney title in program history after going on a five-game tear in the loser’s bracket as the No. 7 seed, taking down No. 4 Northern Illinois, No. 2 Kent State, No. 1 Miami and No. 3 Ohio.

Toledo most recently won the MAC regular-season title in 1992, but this was the first MAC Tournament crown for the program.

The NCAA Regionals are played in a double-elimination format, meaning it takes two losses to be eliminated from the tournament. The winner of the Toledo-Kentucky game will play the winner of the Illinois-Virginia Tech game Saturday, May 18, at noon. The first-round losers will meet at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The champion will be determined by one or two games Sunday, May 19.

The games will be carried on ESPN3; game times may change for TV.

Rockets to host evening with football coach May 29

University of Toledo Head Football Coach Jason Candle and his staff will host a reception at the world-famous Inverness Club Wednesday, May 29, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Craft beer and wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be availble for fans and supporters of the Rockets at the Toledo golf club, 4601 Dorr St.

There will be a live auction; items will include a trip for two to the game at Colorado State, a complete game-day experience with the team for selected home games, and NFL packages and gifts.

Proceeds will benefit The University of Toledo Rocket Fuel Program.

Donation levels are $1,000 for a table (seating for 10 and event recognition), $200 for a couple, and $125 for an individual. A portion of the ticket is tax-deductible.

Register on the UToledo Alumni Association website, or contact Andrew Terwilliger at andrew.terwilliger@utoledo.edu or 614.580.9978.