UW-Eau Claire hit three home runs on its way to defeating top seeded UW-Oshkosh 7-3 today at Gelein Field to advance to the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament Championships in Salem, VA next week.
This will be the Blugolds third appearance in the NCAA Tournament Championships as they appeared there in 1999 and 2000. The 2000 season was also the last time a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) school appeared at Nationals. In both 1999 and 2000 Eau Claire placed fourth nationally.
Eau Claire exploded right away in the top of the first with a leadoff single by Casey Leisgang (Jr.-Seymour, WI) and then Rachel Paulus (Sr.-Wisconsin Rapids, WI/Lincoln) hit base hit to right that was misplayed by the right fielder, which allowed Leisgang to score all the way from first and Paulus to go to third. After a pop-up Michelle Butkus (Fr.-Medford, WI) then followed with a two-run home run to left to give the Blugolds a 3-0 lead.
The Titans answered in the bottom half of the first inning with a two-run home run by Whitney Tyriver over the left field fence that was just out of the reach of the leftfielder to make the score 3-2 Eau Claire. It was Tyriver’s third home run of the season. In the top of the second, Oshkosh left fielder Amie Heinzelman made an outstanding play robbing Casey Leisgang of a potential home run.
Oshkosh tied the contest in the bottom of third after Heinzelman doubled to leadoff the inning and then Whitney Tornow drove her in with a single to center to make the score 3-3. But that is all the Titans got in the inning as they would strand runners at second and third.
Eau Claire retook the lead in the top of the fourth. After the Titans got two quick outs in the inning, Bekki Kidnie (Fr.-St. Paul, MN/Johnson) singled to center and Stephanie Salter (Sr.-Schofield, WI/D.C. Everest) reached on an error to keep the inning alive. Then Casey Leisgang would not be denied this time hitting a three-run home run down the left field line to make the score 6-3. The home run extended her school record with her 27th career round tripper.
Mallory McKinney (Sr.-Brooklyn Park, MN/Champlin Park) added insurance for Eau Claire in the top of the seventh with a leadoff solo home run to left field to give Eau Claire a 7-3 advantage. It was McKinney’s 21st career, which tied her for second all-time in school history with Jill Schoenike. McKinney then closed it out getting the Titans in order to send Eau Claire to the NCAA Division III Tournament Championships with a 7-3 victory.
Mallory McKinney (17-8) went seven innings and had five strikeouts. She is now one win away from tying the school record for career wins as she has 73. Casey Leisgang was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored for the Blugolds.
Oshkosh season ends with 36-11 record. Also ending is the stellar season of junior pitcher Ronessa Stampfli. Stampfli had 51 strikeouts in the NCAA Tournament and walked just three in 34 innings pitched. Stampfli is a three-time WIAC Pitcher of the Year. Stampfli pitched 41 consecutive scoreless innings at one point this season, which is the second longest in WIAC history. She is the conference record holder and is 12th in Division III history with 757 career strikeouts.
Eau Claire will find out who their first opponent will be next week Friday when the rest of the NCAA First Round Regionals conclude tomorrow. The NCAA Tournament Finals will take place Friday, May 18th through Tuesday, May 22nd at James I. Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, VA.