Warhawk softball team falls
UW-Whitewater’s Jessica Stang threw 648 pitches in a 75-hour period in the NCAA Division III Softball World Series, but the one she’ll remember was the one she unleashed last.
UW-Eau Claire first baseman Jill Janke connected on a Stang 1-1 fastball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday afternoon. Her prodigious walk-off home run over the right-field fence gave the Blugolds to a come-from-behind, 4-3 win over WIAC rival Whitewater and the national title.
The victory came in Game 14 of the tournament that began Friday.
Eau Claire (36-11) was the only team in the eight-team championship that didn’t lose two games. In fact, the Blugolds didn’t lose once in the regional or national tournaments.
By staying in the winners’ bracket, Eau Claire played a single game each day in successive tourneys, winning all eight. Staying fresh worked to the Blugolds’ advantage, especially compared to Whitewater, which went 4-2 in the national tournament.
Janke had hit just five homers in Eau Claire’s previous 46 games, and was hitless Monday afternoon until her blast, but there was no doubt when the ball left her bat more than two hours after the game had started.
“I walked up to the plate, and I felt really good. I felt really confident,” Janke said. “I swung and thought, ‘Just get out of here.’ I thought that one might have a chance.”
“I think (Janke) just found her pitch and hit it,” Stang said. “I didn’t feel fatigued.”
“I never once even thought about taking Jess out,” Whitewater coach Brenda Volk said. “She’s been amazing for us this entire week.”
Whitewater (39-11), which had beaten Eau Claire in two of their three previous meetings this year, never trailed until the final pitch Monday. The Warhawks took 1-0 and 3-1 leads (the latter coming on a Suzanne Gersich fifth-inning homer), only to see the Blugolds come back and tie each time.
The Warhawks, who lost 5-4 on Friday afternoon to Cortland (N.Y.) State after taking a 4-2 lead into the final inning, had breezed through the losers’ bracket. They were within one out of forcing a Game 15 rematch today, when Eau Claire rallied from the dire situation.
“These players have been resilient,” said Blugolds coach Leslie Huntington.
Blugold speedster Katie Stalker, the No. 9 hitter, faced Stang with two out in the seventh and her team trailing by two runs. After Stalker battled off several pitches, she used her speed to reach base on an infield grounder. Her teammates came to life and scored twice playing small ball.
The tying run scored when Blugold clean-up hitter Michelle Butkus hit a bases-loaded chopper up the middle. Warhawk second baseman Ashley Smith dove and smothered the ball, knowing that a flip to shortstop Amanda LeBeau on the bag would end the game.
Smith, in close proximity to her teammate, rushed the throw, however, and LeBeau was unable to handle it.
Everyone was safe, and the Blugolds had new life. Two extra innings later, the championship was decided.
Warhawks win Monday opener
In Monday’s first game, Stang tied the school record with 13 strikeouts in yet another dominating tournament performance, a 2-1 victory over No. 1 seed Louisiana College.
Stang effectively mixed a variety of pitches, limiting the Wildcats to five hits. She was especially sharp in working out of a bases-loaded fourth-inning jam, when she retired all three LC batters—two on strikeouts—without allowing a run to score.
Louisiana College broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth when Wildcat pitcher McCaslin Carson hit a solid shot to the center-field wall, which scored catcher Erica Harwell from first. Warhawk center fielder Amy Gahl, a strong defensive player, saw the ball coming right at her, but took a step in and was unable to catch up with the ball when it whizzed over her head.
“I definitely misread it,” Gahl said, “but I still knew we could come back.”
Sure enough, Gahl started a one-out rally in the Warhawks’ half of the inning, doubling to right center. After Smith advanced Gahl to third, Gersich crushed a homer to left-center that cleared the fence by more than 30 feet.
“My eyes were as big as volleyballs,” Gersich said, “as my favorite pitch is one right over the plate.”
Both of Gersich’s Monday home runs came on the first pitch.
The Warhawks’ Stang, Gahl, Gersich, LeBeau and Lauren Cruz were named to the all-tournament team.
WHITEWATER 2, LOUISIANA 1
Louisiana (ab-r-h-rbi)—Clement ss, 3-0-1-0; Thompson cf, 2-0-1-0; Harwell c, 2-1-1-0; Whittington pr, 0-0-0-0; Dubroc 1b, 3-0-1-0; Woodward pr—0-0-0-0; Carson p, 3-0-1-1; Thomas dh, 3-0-0-0; Chruma 3b, 3-0-0-0; Mopntagnino rf, 3-0-0-0; Frye 2b, 3-0-0-0; Leblanc lf, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 25-1-5-1.
Whitewater (ab-r-h-rbi)—Gahl cf, 3-1-2-0; Smith 2b, 2-0-1-0; Gerisch rf, 3-1-1-2; Cruz lf, 2-0-0-0; Le Beau ss, 3-0-0-0; Brennfleck 1b, 2-0-0-0; Rankins 3b, 2-0-0-0; Yucuis c, 2-0-0-0; Driscoll dh, 1-0-0-0. Totals: 21-2-4-2.
Louisiana College 000 001 0—1
Whitewater 000 002 x—2
E—none. LOB—Louisiana 6, Whitewater 3. 2B—Thompson, Carson, Gahl. HR—Gersich.
IP H R ER BB SO
Carson (L, 18-4) 6 4 2 2 1 4
Stang (W, 16-5) 7 5 1 1 0 13
EAU CLAIRE 4, WHITEWATER 3
Whitewater (ab-r-h-rbi)—Gahl cf, 4-0-0-0; Smith 2b, 4-1-1-0; Gersich rf, 4-1-3-2; Cruz lf, 4-0-0-0; LeBeau ss, 4-1-2-0; Brennefleck 1b, 2-0-0-0; Rankins 3b, 4-0-1-1; Yucuis c, 4-0-1-0; Kelm dh, 3-0-0-0. Totals: 33-3-8-3.
Eau Claire (ab-r-h-rbi)—Leisgang 2b, 4-1-2-0; Zeman rf, 5-0-1-2; Janke 1b, 3-1-1-1; Baumgartner pr, 0-0-0-0; Butkus 3b, 4-0-2-0; Ross p, 4-0-2-0; Doucette dh, 4-0-1-0; Kidnie c, 3-0-0-0; Kettinger lf, 4-0-0-0; Stalker ss, 4-2-3-0; O’Hearn cf-pr, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 34-4-10-3.
Whitewater 010 020 000—3
Eau Claire 001 000 201—4
E—LeBeau 2. LOB—Whitewater 5, Eau Claire 9. HR—Gersich, Janke.
IP H R ER BB SO
Stang (L, 16-6) 8 2-3 10 4 3 3 6
Ross (W, 27-2) 9 8 3 3 0 6
NCAA DIVISION III SOFTBALL
At Salem Va.
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—Muskingum (Ohio) 1, Lynchburg (Va.) 0
Game 5—UW-Whitewater 4, Rhode Island College 1 (Rhode Island College eliminated)
Game 6—Ithaca 4, Lynchburg 0 (Lynchburg eliminated)
Game 7—Louisiana College 3, Cortland State 1
Game 8—UW-Eau Claire 5, Muskingum 1
Game 9—Ithaca 8, Corland State 1 (Cortland eliminated)
Game 10—UW-Whitewater 5, Muskingum 3 (Muskingum eliminated)
Game 11—UW-Eau Claire 2, Louisiana College 1
Game 12—UW-Whitewater 4, Ithaca 0 (Ithaca eliminated)
Game 13—UW-Whitewatrer 2, Louisiana College 1 (Louisiana College eliminated)
Game 14—UW-Eau Claire 4, UW-Whitewater 3 (9)