The Blugolds, who are seeded No. 6 in the tournament, found themselves behind as Augustana, the No. 3 seed, scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings. The Vikings’ first run came on a solo dinger by Samantha Knox.
In the Blugold fifth, both Steph Salter (Sr.-Schofield, WI/DC Everest) and Casey Leisgang (Jr.-Seymour, WI) reached base on errors with one out. Rachel Paulus then beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Mallory McKinney (Sr.-Brooklyn Park, MN/Champlin Park) delivered an RBI single and Michelle Butkus (Fr.-Medford, WI) a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. Janke then unloaded to straightaway center for her sixth round-tripper of the season. Because of the errors, all five of the runs were recorded as unearned.
Leisgang’s double plated the Blugolds’ only earned run in the sixth inning as the Blugolds improved their season record to 32-12.
McKinney started the game for Eau Claire but was lifted in favor of Bri Sturm (So.-Zumbrota, MN/Zumbrota-Mazeppa) who was the pitcher of record when the Blugolds had their big inning. McKinney came on in relief of Sturm for the final two innings to earn her school record third save of the season.
McKinney’s totals included seven hits in five innings with one walk and seven strikeouts. Sturm allowed three hits in two innings with no walks and two strikeouts.
Each team banged out 10 hits with Leisgang, McKinney, Janke and Mandy Tschernach (Sr.-Rice Lake, WI) getting two apiece for Eau Claire . Knox had three and Sara Brokaw two hits for Augustana.
Eau Claire, ranked No. 21 in this week’s NFCA Division III national poll and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s automatic qualifier, will face the winner of the upcoming Illinois Wesleyan-St. Norbert game in a second round game at 4 p.m. Friday. Augustana, the automatic qualifier from the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, is now 30-13 for the season and will play an elimination game against the loser of the UW-Oshkosh vs. Coe game at 2 p.m. Friday.