WPU in Driver’s Seat After Perfect First Day
Oskaloosa–The Statesmen softball team snuck past the hottest pitcher in the league and then knocked off its rival to be in prime shape after the first day of the Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament Saturday.
Top-seeded William Penn (35-17) won its first game 1-0 over #4 Mount Mercy and then advanced to the championship series with a 7-2 victory against #2 Grand View. The navy and gold will now take on the winner of Grand View and #3 St. Ambrose on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., needing just one win to advance to nationals.
Mount Mercy’s Catie Flaucher entered the tourney as the reigning NAIA Pitcher of the Week and played the part well on Saturday. She limited the potent Statesmen offense to just three hits through the first four frames.
William Penn, which has won nine in a row, finally struck in the fifth, though, with help from two Mustang errors. Steviee Grove (Sr., Runnells, Iowa, History/Government) reached on an error to lead off the inning and then pinchrunner BreeAnne Chism (Sr., Fullerton, Calif., Psychology) was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ashlee Dennis (Jr., Loveland Colo., Biology) and throwing error by MMU.
The home team continued with the small ball as Chism scored on a suicide-squeeze bunt by Sydney Edwards (Jr., Galesburg, Ill., Psychology & Biology). That was all Jennifer Whitehead (Sr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Biology) needed in the pitcher’s duel.
The senior struck out eight with one walk in a four-hit shutout–her ninth of the season. Edwards and Bri Zerley (Jr., Monroe, Iowa, Biology) both finished 2-for-3 as WPU outhit Mount Mercy 7-4. Jessica Christensen (So., Marysville, Wash., Sociology) also reached base twice with a hit and a walk.
The Mustangs made it a little too interesting late, but left a runner at second in the sixth and one at third in the seventh.
Although the score was not indicative of a tight matchup, William Penn’s win against Grand View was equally as nail-biting as its first game. WPU took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run single from Steviee Grove and never looked back, although the Vikings threatened in basically every inning.
A two-out rally put three more runs on the board in the fourth, highlighted by a run-scoring triple by Dennis and an RBI single by Edwards. GVU narrowed the margin to four in the fifth, but defensive miscues led to two final Statesmen runs in the sixth. The Vikings, who left 13 on base (bases loaded twice), got one more score in the seventh, but could not do enough to stay on the winner’s side of the bracket.
Sonia Ray (Sr., San Diego, Calif., Physical Education), who started the two-out rally in the third, was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, while Christensen was also 2-for-3 (one walk). Dennis rounded the bases twice as well, while Steviee Grove finished with two RBIs. Jorden Steele (Jr., Tacoma, Wash., Physical Education) produced one hit and one walk as WPU outhit GVU 9-8.
Whitehead improved to 25-7 by getting out of jam after jam, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight scattered hits. She had some issues with control, striking out two while walking six.