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Titans Begin Florida Trip With Two Wins

Claire Petrus allowed just three singles en route to pitching her fourth career shutout.
Claire Petrus allowed just three singles en route to pitching her fourth career shutout.

Grace Stevens produced a walk-off hit in the opening game of the day, Claire Petrus pitched a three-hit shutout in the second contest and the nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh softball team began its trip to Florida with a pair of victories Tuesday (March 26) in Clermont.

UW-Oshkosh (6-4) overcame deficits of 3-0 and 5-2 to pull out a 6-5 win over St. Olaf College (Minn.) with a two-run seventh inning. The Titans then downed Thomas College (Maine), 7-0, behind Petrus' fourth career shutout.

Stevens, who drove in the game-winning run with one out in the home half of the seventh frame, ended the first contest 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs batted in.

Kailee Garstecki went 3-for-3 in the nightcap to pace the Titans while Natalie Dudek, Katie Fontanetta and Kaitlyn Krol each added two of UW-Oshkosh's 13 hits against Thomas College. Dudek also tied her career high with three RBIs.

During the comeback win in the opener, St. Olaf College broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the top of the third inning against Titans starting pitcher Bailey Smaney. UW-Oshkosh cut down a runner at the plate as a perfect relay throw from UW-Oshkosh right fielder Chloe Lambie to second baseman Amanda McIlhany to catcher Abby Menting put a Oles runner at second base with two outs. However, three straight St. Olaf College hits, including consecutive RBI doubles by Emily Carr and Hannah Matthies, gave the Oles a 3-0 lead.

The Titans left the bases loaded in the home half of the third frame against Oles starting pitcher Julie Graf, but UW-Oshkosh pulled within 3-2 an inning later on a run-scoring doubles from Stevens and Petrus.

St. Olaf College (10-5) tacked on insurance single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to extend its advantage to 5-2 before the Titans walked off with the victory behind four unearned runs during the final two frames.

With two outs and Stevens at second base in the bottom of the sixth inning, Stevens came around to score following a muffed catch at first base on a groundball to second off the bat of Petrus. Lambie followed with a ringing double to right-center field to plate Petrus and cut the Titan deficit to 5-4.

After Smaney retired the Oles in order in the top of the seventh inning, Krol led off the fateful home half of the frame with a single up the middle. Jordan Manthei entered as a pinch-runner for Krol and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Emma Fionda. McIlhany then reached via a fielder's choice as Matthies, the Oles first baseman, fired too late to third base in her attempt to throw out Manthei.

Dudek followed with a grounder, but third baseman Kaleigh Santmyer's resulting throw across the diamond was wide of first base. Manthei was caught in a rundown between third base and home on the play, and her dash to the plate was ultimately rewarded with an obstruction ruling on Carr, the St. Olaf College catcher, to knot the score at 5.

While Manthei was involved in the rundown, McIlhany advanced to third base and Dudek moved up to second to bring up Stevens, who laced a single in front of the St. Olaf College left fielder that allowed McIlhany to easily score the winning run.

Smaney (3-2) went the distance in the pitcher's circle for the Titans, allowing 10 hits and registering five strikeouts without issuing a walk.

Oles relief pitcher Sydney Robson (1-1) suffered the loss after yielding four unearned runs on two hits and one walk in 1.1 innings. She exited in favor of Graf, who reentered the circle and allowed Stevens' walk-off hit to the lone batter of her second pitching stint. Graf, who entered with 125 strikeouts in 63 innings pitched, struck out seven and walked five.

Carr went 3-for-4 to pace the Oles, who also received two hits apiece from Kate Arneson and Jordan Melz.

In the win over Thomas College (7-5), Petrus held the Terriers to infield singles in the third and sixth innings, and a single to center field with two outs in the seventh frame.

Petrus, who set down 10 straight batters between the third and sixth innings, allowed just one baserunner to advance past second base. She finished the game with four strikeouts and one walk.

Dudek provided UW-Oshkosh a 2-0 lead with a two-out, two-run double in the top of the fourth inning. The Titans added five runs in the seventh frame behind four hits and a pair of Thomas College errors.

UW-Oshkosh's five-run outburst featured back-to-back RBI doubles by Gabby Buikema and Menting, and a run-scoring single from Dudek. Terrier errors also allowed Carly Szada and McIlhany to score during the inning.

Terriers starting pitcher Katlyn Coulter was charged with the loss, surrendering five runs (four earned) on 12 hits and a walk in 6.1 innings.

UW-Oshkosh plays single games against Franklin College (Ind.) and St. Catherine University (Minn.) on Wednesday (March 27) in Clermont.

Photo by Paul Fionda