UW-Oshkosh's longest run in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship in nearly 10 years concluded as nationally ranked Trine University (Ind.) defeated the Titans, 7-5, in the Angola Super Regional on Saturday (May 20) in Angola, Ind.
After falling behind, 5-0, after two innings, the Titans tied the score at 5 with a run in the bottom of the fifth frame. However, the Thunder reclaimed the lead for good with one run in the top of the sixth inning before adding an insurance run in the seventh.
With the victory, Trine University (37-8) swept the best-of-three super regional series over UW-Oshkosh. The Thunder, who claimed a 7-6 win over the Titans on Friday (May 19), move on to the eight-game Division III World Series that begins next week in Oklahoma City, Okla. Trine University entered the NCAA postseason ranked 22nd in the country by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
UW-Oshkosh (33-13) ends the season with the second-highest win total in the 47-year history of the program and the most wins since compiling a 36-11 record in 2007.
Trine University's Catherine Porter drove in the eventual game-winning run with a two-out single that scored pinch-runner Erica Robles from third base in the sixth inning. The Thunder then concluded the scoring on a sacrifice fly by Claire Ryan in the seventh frame.
The Thunder scored twice on two hits and two UW-Oshkosh errors in the first inning before a steady rain delayed the game for more than three hours in the top of the second frame.
Kaylee Fox drove home Trine University's initial run with a one-out single that scored Ryan. Following a single by Carly Bachna, Porter delivered a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 Thunder advantage. Both of Trine University's first-inning runs were unearned as the Titans committed consecutive errors – the first on an infield throwing error and the second on a dropped fly ball in the outfield.
Emma Fionda led off the UW-Oshkosh first inning with a double, but Thunder starting pitcher Hannah Kampmann stranded a pair of Titan baserunners before heavy rains precipitated a delay.
After a three hour, 16-minute delay, Trine University tacked on three more runs on two hits and two more UW-Oshkosh errors in the second inning.
Lainey McCue, the Angola Super Regional Most Outstanding Player, sparked the Thunder's second inning with a leadoff double. She advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt before Makenna Hartline walked ahead of Michaela Hartline, who smacked a two-run double to right-center field. Ryan subsequently gave Trine University a 5-0 lead with a run-scoring grounder.
UW-Oshkosh center fielder Brianna Witter helped limit the damage in the second inning by leaping above the wall to prevent a three-run home run off the bat of Michaela Hartline, who settled for a double after the ball popped out of Witter's glove after she crashed high above the outfield wall.
After being held to just one hit over the first two innings, UW-Oshkosh erupted for four runs on six hits in the third frame. Natalie Dillon and Fionda began the rally with back-to-back singles, and Abby Menting scored both players with a one-out single. Kaitlyn Krol and Claire Petrus both singled to load the bases with one out for Amanda McIlhany, who ripped a two-run double down the right-field line to trim the Titans' deficit to 5-4.
Kate Saupe, who relieved Kampmann in the Trine University pitcher's circle, retired the first two batters she faced as the Titans stranded the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
UW-Oshkosh relief pitcher Sara Brunlieb pitched around a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth inning before the Titans tied the score at 5 as pinch-runner Tanya Hammitt crossed the plate on a one-out outfield error following a single up the middle by Petrus.
Brunlieb issued consecutive one-out walks in the sixth inning. She induced a fly ball for the second out, but Porter bounced a hit up the middle that provided the difference in the score.
The Titans left two runners on base during the sixth inning and brought the potential tying run to the plate in the home half of the seventh as McIlhany laced a one-out triple to right-center field. However, Thunder relief pitcher Danielle Ray recorded a strikeout and a groundout to send Trine University to the World Series.
UW-Oshkosh outhit the Thunder, 13-10, including three hits by Menting and two each from Fionda, McIlhany and Petrus.
McCue went 3-for-4 with two runs to pace the Thunder while Porter had a pair of hits and two runs batted in.
Saupe (5-1) picked up the win in relief, allowing one run (unearned) on three hits over 2.2 innings of work.
Ray earned her sixth save of the year after pitching two scoreless innings on three hits while Kampmann gave up four runs on seven hits across the first 2.1 frames.
Brunlieb suffered the loss for the Titans, ceding two runs on six hits in 5.2 innings pitched out of the bullpen. She struck out four and walked five.
Petrus, the UW-Oshkosh starting pitcher, surrendered five runs (three earned) on four hits in 1.1 innings of work.
The Titans, who entered the super regional round ranked fourth nationally with a .976 fielding percentage, committed seven total errors against Trine University, including a season-high four on Saturday.
UW-Oshkosh, which concluded its seventh NCAA postseason appearance, owns a 13-15 record in the national tournament. The Titans finished a program-best sixth at the 1988 championship.