UW-Oshkosh's Abby Menting blasted a game-tying home run in the top of the sixth inning, but nationally ranked Trine University (Ind.) walked off with a 7-6 victory on Lainey McCue's single in the bottom of the seventh during the opening game of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship Angola Super Regional on Friday (May 19).
Catherine Porter began the Thunder's fateful home half of the seventh inning by reaching second base on a dropped fly ball. Nicole Ferraro then walked ahead of McCue, who singled up the middle to score Porter with the winning run.
Trine University (36-8), ranked 22nd in the country by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three super regional series.
UW-Oshkosh (33-12) must beat the Thunder twice on Saturday (May 20) to reach the final eight-team tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla., that begins next week.
The Thunder and Titans will conclude the Angola Super Regional on Saturday. Game 2 of the series begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) at Trine University's SportONE/Parkview Softball Park. If necessary, the winner-take-all championship game would commence at 3:30 p.m.
In Friday's setback, UW-Oshkosh jumped out to 3-0 advantage in the top of the first inning, but Trine University took its first lead at 6-4 with a three-run fifth frame.
The Titans, who entered the day ranked fourth nationally with a .975 fielding percentage, matched their season high with three errors that led to six unearned runs.
Trine University outhit UW-Oshkosh, 9-4, while both teams stranded eight baserunners as the Titans coaxed seven total walks against a pair of Thunder pitchers.
McCue, Catherine Porter, Claire Ryan paced the Thunder with two hits apiece.
Menting concluded the game 2-for-3 with a homer, two runs scored and three runs batted in.
Trine University relief pitcher Hannah Kampmann (14-4) picked up the win after allowing two runs on one hit and three walks over the final 3.1 innings.
UW-Oshkosh opened the scoring with three runs after two outs in the first inning. Emma Fionda was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. Menting then singled with one out, and Kaitlyn Krol walked to load the bases. Following a strikeout for the second out, Claire Petrus and Amanda McIlhany delivered run-scoring hits before Krol crossed the plate on a wild pitch that increased the Titan lead to 3-0 against Thunder starting pitcher Danielle Ray.
Titans starting pitcher Sara Brunlieb pitched around baserunners in both the first and second innings, but the Thunder pulled within 3-2 in the bottom of the third frame. After retiring the first two Trine University batters, Brunlieb ceded consecutive hits to put Thunder baserunners at second and third bases. An error in the infield allowed the first Trine University run to score, and Porter followed with a run-scoring infield single.
Ray walked Brianna Witter, Fionda and Natalie Dudek to load the bases with two outs in the Titans' half of the fourth inning. Kampmann, who entered the pitcher's circle for Ray, walked Menting to score Witter for a 4-2 UW-Oshkosh lead before a groundout ended the threat.
The Thunder cut their deficit to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning as McCue hit a leadoff single, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single by Makenna Hartline.
Trine University claimed the lead in the fifth inning with three unearned runs. Two runs scored on a throwing error to the plate with one out. An illegal pitch by Brunlieb advanced a Thunder runner to third base, and Emily White beat out a two-out single to the pitcher's circle for the final run of the inning.
UW-Oshkosh's Natalie Dillon drew a leadoff walk against Kampmann in the top of the sixth inning. After Kampmann pitched two straight balls to the ensuing Titan batter, the home plate umpire called the players off the field due to a persistent rain.
Following an eight-minute delay, Kampmann rediscovered her pitching form, setting down two straight batters until Menting launched a towering two-run homer to center field that knotted the score at 6. The home run was Menting's team-leading sixth of the year and the 12th of her career.
UW-Oshkosh received spectacular diving catches from Witter in center field and Dillon in right field. Dillon's snagged a hard-hit line drive for the second out during the fifth inning, and Witter ranged far into the right-center field gap to snare a fly ball near the warning track for the final out in the sixth frame.
Brunlieb (14-6) was charged with the complete-game loss, yielding seven runs (one earned) on nine hits and four walks across six-plus innings pitched.
Trine University's Ray tossed the first 3.2 innings, surrendering four runs on three hits and four walks.
UW-Oshkosh, which won a regional title for the first time since 1988, has a 13-14 record in seven NCAA postseason appearances.
Trine University sports a 25-19 record in the Division III tournament. The Thunder, who have made 10th consecutive national tournaments, lost both games as hosts of a super regional last season.
Photo by Paul Fionda