Amanda McIlhany hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning during the nightcap, Natalie Dudek delivered the eventual game-winning single later in the frame, and the UW-Oshkosh softball team earned a doubleheader split with UW-Whitewater on Tuesday (April 9) at the UW-Oshkosh Softball Park.
UW-Oshkosh (13-9, 2-2 WIAC) came back to win the second game, 5-4, after falling by a 5-0 score in the opener.
Trailing 2-1 in the second contest with two outs in the home half of the fifth inning, McIlhany smashed a two-strike pitch over the center field wall for a 4-2 lead. Sidney Budzinski followed with a pinch-hit double and came around to score on what proved to be the game-winning single to center field by Dudek.
UW-Whitewater (13-7, 3-1 WIAC) pulled within 5-4 on Nikki Mikosz's two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning and had the tying run on first base with two outs in the seventh frame, but UW-Oshkosh center fielder Acacia Tupa secured the victory with a diving catch with her back to the infield near the warning track off the bat of Mikosz.
The win snapped the Titans' 10-game losing streak to two-time defending WIAC champion UW-Whitewater since a 6-4 UW-Oshkosh home victory over the Warhawks on April 15, 2015.
Tuesday's doubleheader pitted UW-Oshkosh's WIAC-leading offense against UW-Whitewater's league-best pitching staff. The Titans entered the day pacing the conference with 5.8 runs per game, a .332 batting average and a .401 on-base percentage. The Warhawks were ranked sixth in the NCAA Division III with a 1.43 earned run average while leading the WIAC with five shutouts and a 2.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
UW-Whitewater outhit the Titans, 22-8, on the day, including 10-1 in the opener.
During the nightcap UW-Oshkosh starting pitcher Bailey Smaney tossed a complete game to improve her record to 9-3 on the season. Smaney, who scattered 12 hits and three walks, recorded five strikeouts on the way to taking over the conference lead in victories and complete games with nine.
UW-Whitewater owned a 2-0 lead after two innings following a two-out, run-scoring single from Molly Ethington in the top of the first frame and an RBI double by Kayla Seymour with one out in the second.
Dudek drove in the Titans' first run of the day with a double that scored pinch-runner Buikema with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning against Warhawks senior starting pitcher Julia Camardo, who entered Tuesday with a 5-0 career record with a save in her three seasons against the Titans.
Smaney pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth inning as a leadoff single from Seymour, a walk to Emily Rux and a wild pitch put runners at the corners with one out. Smaney retired Warhawks cleanup hitter Caitlin Catino on a strikeout for the second out. Ethington drew a walk to load the bases for Kaiden Jackson, who grounded out to McIlhany at second base to stymie the scoring chance.
The Titans opened the bottom of the fifth inning with a single from Katie Kugel and a Chloe Lambie walk. A flyout and a groundout put baserunners at second and third with two outs ahead of McIlhany. Despite facing an 0-2 count, McIlhany drove a high fastball to straightaway center field for a three-run homer. The home run was McIlhany's second of the season and the seventh of her career.
Budzinski's ensuing double over the head of Catino in center field concluded Camardo's outing, and Dudek greeted new UW-Whitewater pitcher Dani Biesiada with a single to center field that scored Budzinski without a play at the plate.
Mikosz drilled her two-run shot to left field before UW-Oshkosh recorded an out in the top of the sixth inning, but Smaney worked around two additional singles in the frame to preserve the Titans' one-run lead by striking out Catino once again with runners at the corners.
Smaney got two quick groundouts in the top of seventh inning before Meg Cohrs laced a single to center field to bring up Mikosz with the game on the line. Mikosz appeared to produce a game-tying extra-base hit to the center field wall, but Tupa made her tremendous diving catch to end the game.
McIlhany, who extended her hitting streak to 13 games, and Dudek both had two hits for the Titans. McIlhany's three RBIs were a season high while Dudek increased her team-leading batting average to .389 this season.
Cohrs and Seymour both went 3-for-4 to pace the Warhawks.
Camardo (4-5) suffered the loss, allowing five runs on six hits in 4.2 innings pitched. She walked two and struck out one.
In Tuesday's first game, UW-Whitewater starting pitcher Bella Matthias fired a one-hit shutout with two walks and 10 strikeouts after coming into the day ranked seventh in the country with a 0.72 earned run average and eighth nationally by averaging 10.1 strikeouts per seven innings.
Matthias (7-1) lost her bid for a no-hitter on McIlhany's one-out single in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Warhawks scored all of their runs in the top of the fifth frame. UW-Whitewater collected six hits in the inning, including four in a row with two outs. Catino hit a two-run double with two outs for a 3-0 Warhawk lead before Nicole Neitzel and Jackson followed with RBI singles.
Ethington and Jackson had two hits apiece for the Warhawks in the opener.
Titans starting pitcher Claire Petrus (4-6) was charged with the loss, yielding five runs on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts across the first five innings.
UW-Oshkosh travels to UW-Stout for a doubleheader Saturday (April 13) in Menomonie.
Photo by Paul Fionda