The Gustavus softball team battled valiantly to defend its MIAC regular season title, but St. Thomas wrestled the title away from the Gusties with a 1-0 win in game one and a 5-3 win in 11 innnings in game two. The Tommies improved to 30-6 overall and 17-1 in the MIAC, while the Gusties dropped to 21-10 overall and 14-4 in the MIAC. St. Thomas now holds a three-game lead over the second place Gustavus with four games left to play.
Pitching and defense dominated game one as the Tommies scratched out one run on three hits against Betsie Collins, but that was enough as Marta Radcliffe scattered six hits and shut the Gusties out allowing St. Thomas to claim a 1-0 win. The Tommies scored their lone run in the fourth inning when Erica Wilson walked, advanced to second on a single by Sydney Marquardt, and scored on a single by Alison Wright. The Gusties threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth with runners on first and second base with two out, but pinch runner Amy Lynch was thrown out attempting to steal third base to end the inning. Gustavus threatened again in the bottom of the seventh when Jesse Pelzel doubled down the right field line with one out. Christina Riester pinch ran for Pelzel and was advanced to third on an infield out by Dani Cattrysse. Jenny Ewert grounded out to shortstop stranding Riester on third and allowing the Tommies to escape with the 1-0 victory. Betsie Collins suffered the hard luck loss on the mound. She limited St. Thomas to three hits and allowing just one earned run while walking two and striking out five. Marta Radcliffe was the winning pitcher for St. Thomas. She scattered six hits while walking three and striking out four. Gustavus struggled to register the key hit stranding eight runners in the game including at least one runner in six of the seven innings. Lisa Klass, Kirsten Prunty, and Jesse Pelzel were the only players to register hits for the Gusties as the trio recorded two hits each.
Game two had a completely different feel than game one with both teams stranding runners on base in every inning but two (the fifth and ninth innings). The Tommies scored first when Kimmy Hassel singled to drive in Becky Eischens in the second inning. Gustavus scored twice in the bottom of the third to take a 2-1 lead. The Gusties took advantage of three St. Thomas errors, a wild pitch, and a dropped third strike to manufacture the two runs in the inning. Gustavus took its 2-1 lead into the seventh inning, but the Tommies Becky Eischens singled, stole second and scored the tying run on an infield out by Erica Wilson. The Gusties charged right back in the bottom of the seventh and had runners on first and second with two outs, when Jenna Johnson singled sharply to center field, Jenny Ewert rounded third and headed for home trying to score the winning run, but Eischens fired a strike to home plate and catcher Becky Schreiner applied the tag ending the rally and sending the game into extra innings.
The international tiebreaker went into effect in the 10th inning and St. Thomas wasted no time scoring as Erica Wilson stroked a double into the left field corner scoring pinch runner Laura Pawlik, who scored from second base. The Tommies threatened to add to their total with runners on first and second with one out, but Betsie Collins, who entered the game in the sixth inning in relief of Callie Nelsen got out of the jam allowing only one run. In the bottom of the inning, Gustavus tied the game when Jenna Johnson ripped a single to left field scoring Kirsten Prunty from third base.
St. Thomas manufactured the winning runs in the top of the 11th inning with some nifty baserunning. Radcliffe opened the inning on second base and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kayla Boward. Radcliffe scored on a suicide squeeze by Eischens. Eischens then stole second (her third stolen base of the day) and scored on a single by Hassel. Lisa Klass opened the bottom of the inning with a sharp line drive that was snagged by Hassel who flipped the ball to the shortstop Tondryk who doubled up Jen Ulmen at second base. Ewert reached on an error, but then Prunty popped out to the catcher Megan Noskowiak to end the game.
Eischens did most of the damage for St. Thomas as she picked up two hits in five at-bats, scored three runs, drove in a run and stole three bases.
For Gustavus, Emily Wendorff and Jenna Johnson led the way with two hits each.
Marta Radcliffe stymied the Gusties for the second consecutive game as she pitched all 11 innings (18 on the day) scattering seven hits without allowing an earned run and striking out 10.
Callie Nelsen was the starting pitcher for Gustavus and she pitched five innings allowing five hits an one earned run. Betsie Collins entered in the sixth inning with a runner on first base and pitched the final six innings allowing two earned runs on five hits, while striking out five.
Gustavus will host Macalester in a doubleheader on Wednesday at 4 pm, while St. Thomas will host St. Ben’s starting at 4 pm.