The No. 25 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire softball team squared off against Wartburg (IA) on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Blugolds defeated the Knights 2-1 to advance in the winner's bracket.
Wartburg got on the board first with a few singles and loaded the bases with a batter hit by a pitch. The Knights scored off a bases loaded walk, but the Blugolds fought back with a tough strike-out and a pop-up caught by Jessica Heffel (Racine, WI/Case) to end the inning. The Blugolds answered immediately with a single from, leadoff hitter Mikayla McEnery (So.-Savage, MN/Prior Lake). McEnery advanced to third on an error and scored off a sacrifice fly from Katie Rongstad (Jr.-Slinger, WI) to tie the game 1-1 after one inning of play.
The score remained tied until the Blugolds took the lead in the bottom of the 5th inning. Heffel single to center field to get things rolling for the Blugolds. Allison Schultz (Amery, WI) came in to pinch run and stole second on the next pitch. Rongstad stepped to the plate and doubled to left field to earn her second RBI of the game and score Schultz from second. The Blugolds put pressure on the Knights again in the bottom of the 6th but were unable to capatilize with runners on. Sarah Peka (Jr. – Chanhassen, MN/Minnetonka) made quick work of the Knights in the top of the 7th with three straight outs to end the game.
The Blugolds had great performances on the mound, coming into today's matchup the Knights were 20th in NCAA DIII in batting average and second in stolen bases. Cheyenne Johnson (Jr. – Poplar, WI/Northwestern) started in the circle for Eau Claire and earned the win improving to 8-3 on the year. The junior pitched the first four innings, scattered three hits and struck out four. Sarah Peka (Jr. – Chanhassen, MN/Minnetonka) followed with a tremendous three innings, giving up only one hit and striking out four and earned her first save of the year.
The Blugolds advance in the winner's bracket and will face host and 3rd-ranked St. Thomas Friday, May 10th at 12 p.m. The Tommies defeated Northwestern (Minn.) 9-0 in 5 innings.
Live stats and video will be available on Blugold Game Day or on the free 'UWEC Blugolds' app on your mobile device as will the link to the audio broadcast, which will also be available on Converge Radio 99.9 FM.