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Whitewater softball team falls in NCAA series opener

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John Montgomery/Special to the Gazette
May 16, 2008
— Holding a two-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning with pitching ace Jessica Stang on the mound Friday afternoon, UW-Whitewater softball coach Brenda Volk felt secure.

It turned out to be a false sense of security.


“We didn’t close the door,” Volk said.


Cortland State of New York scored three times in its final at-bat at Moyer Complex, enabling the Red Dragons to defeat Whitewater, 5-4, in the opening round of the NCAA Division III national championship double-elimination tournament.


Cortland State (39-11) plays No. 1 seed Louisiana College at 3 p.m. (CDT), today, while the Warhawks (35-10) move to the losers’ bracket. They play No. 8 seed Rhode Island College at 10 a.m. (CDT) today.


Friday afternoon’s windswept game was a battle of mental and physical miscues as well as momentum swings. Whitewater fell behind 2-0 as Cortland State took advantage of Warhawk errors to score in the first and third innings.


Whitewater got a run back in the fifth on a two-error play. Meghann Brennfleck scored from second when Red Dragon third baseman Jackie Begnoche fielded a grounder and elected not to step on third for an inning-ending force play, then threw wild to first.


As Brennfleck rounded third, Cortland State first baseman Shara Evanter thought she had Lauren Rankins doubled off second, but her poor throw allowed Rankins to scamper back to the bag and Brennfleck to score.


Meanwhile, Red Dragon pitcher Katie Finch (22-7) was shutting down the Whitewater offense. The Warhawks did not get their first hit until right fielder Suzanne Gersich delivered a one-out single in the sixth.


Suddenly, Whitewater found its groove. Left fielder Lauren Cruz followed Gersich’s hit with a two-run homer to right, putting the Warhawks ahead 3-2.


“I knew what to expect after facing (Finch) the first two times,” Cruz said. “I was ready.”


Whitewater got two more sixth-inning hits, singles by Amanda LeBeau and Rankins, but a Liz Yucuis fly to center left the runners stranded at second and third.


Cruz knocked in her third run of the game in the seventh on a long sacrifice fly that scored designated hitter Alli Driscoll.


“We were happy to go up 4-2,” Volk said.


But then, Cortland State showed some resilience of its own.


“That fourth run of theirs changed our strategy,” said Red Dragon coach Julie Lenhart.


“We knew then that hits would have to happen for us to win.”


Stang’s throwing error on a comebacker fueled the Red Dragons’ seventh-inning. The error was followed by a fielder’s choice, a walk and two hits.


With the winning run on third base and one out, Whitewater pulled in its infield and forced Bethany Williamson to ground into another fielder’s choice as Warhawk shortstop LeBeau threw out the runner at home.


But then, designated hitter Brooke Weidman delivered the winning single to right that scored Evanter from third.


Lenhart suspected that Whitewater would come back from its early 2-0 deficit.


“It’s tough to shut their bats down,” she said.


“We were fortunate to have a good start. But we’ve come from behind in other games this year.


“Even when our team is behind, we never believe we’re stopped.


“Today was another example of that.”


Emily Ringen had three hits, a walk and two RBIs for the winners.


Lenhart said that when Evanter’s single to right scored Annemarie Nelson with the tying run, she momentarily thought about attempting to score Ringen from second as well, but decided to play it safe and hold her there.


Gersich momentarily bobbled the ball, and it appeared Ringen could have jogged home.


“I’m not the fastest,” Ringen said.


Lenhart inserted a pinch-runner for Ringen, but when Williamson grounded to short, LeBeau cut down Rose Morrison at the plate. That set the stage for the game-winner.


Finch and Stang (12-5) both pitched complete games, with each throwing at least 110 pitches and recording five strikeouts.


CORTLAND 5, WHITEWATER 3


Whitewater (ab-r-h-rbi)—Gahl, cf, 4-0-1-0; Smith, 4-0-1-0; Gersich, rf, 4-1-1-0; Cruz, lf, 3-1-1-3; LeBeau, ss, 3-0-1-0; Brennfleck, 1b, 1-1-0-0; Rankins, 3b, 2-0-1-0; Solberg, pr, 0-0-0-0; Yucuis, c, 3-0-0-0; Driscoll, dh, 3-1-1-0; Stang, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals; 27-4-7-3.


Cortland (ab-r-h-rbi)—Cross, 2b, 4-0-0-0; Barnett, c, 4-1-1-0; Blum, pr, 0-1-0-0; Nelson, cf, 2-2-1-0; Ringen, lf-dh, 3-0-3-2; Carner, pr, 0-0-0-0; Morrison, pr, 0-0-0-0; Evanter, 1b, 4-1-1-1; Williamson, ss, 4-0-0-0; Weidman, dh-lf, 3-0-1-1; Dieffenbach, pr, 1-0-0-0; Begnoche, 3b, 3-0-1-0; Whitman, rf, 3-0-1-0; Finch, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 31-5-5-4.


UW-Whitewater 000 012 1—4


Cortland State 101 000 3—5


E—Whitewater 3, Cortland 2. LOB—Whitewater 6, Cortland 9. 2B—Ringen. HR—Cruz. SB—Evanter. SH—Nelson. SF—Cruz.


IP H R ER BB SO


UW-Whitewater


Stang (L, 12-5) 6q 9 5 1 2 5


Cortland State


Finch (W, 22-7) 7 7 4 3 3 5


NCAA DIVISION III SOFTBALL


WORLD SERIES


At Salem Va.


(Central Times)


RESULTS FRIDAY


Game 1—Louisiana College 1, Rhode Island College 0


Game 2—Cortland State (N.Y.) 5, UW-Whitewater 4


Game 3—UW-Eau Claire 8, Ithaca (N.Y.) 0 (6)


Game 4—Lynchburg (Va.) vs. Muskingum (Ohio) 1, Lynchburg (Va.) 0


GAMES TODAY


Game 5—Rhode Island College (36-11) vs. UW-Whitewater (35-10), 10 a.m.


Game 6—Lynchburg (39-7) vs. Ithaca (34-11), 12:30 p.m.


Game 7—Cortland State (39-11) vs. Louisiana College (43-5), 3 p.m.


Game 8—UW-Eau Claire (33-11) vs. Muskingum (41-10), 5:30 p.m.


GAMES SUNDAY


Game 9—Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, 11 a.m.


Game 10—Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 1:30 p.m.


Game 11—Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 4 p.m.


Game 12—Winner Game 9 vs. Winner game 10, 6:30 p.m.


GAMES MONDAY


Game 13—Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, 11 a.m.


Game 14—Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, 1:30 p.m.


GAME TUESDAY


Game 15—Game 14 rematch, if necessary, 10 a.m.



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