May 5, 2002
Softball Teams Heads To NCAA Tourney for Fourth Straight Year
The Truman softball team will be making its fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II regional tournament after automatically qualifying by capturing the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament title yesterday.
Three other conferences in the North Central region also have automatic qualifiers, including North Dakota State from the North Central Conference and the University of Minnesota-Duluth from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
The Bulldogs had fallen out of the North Central region rankings in the most recent NCAA Division II softball committee's poll that helps to determines postseason participants.
Six teams are chosen from each of the eight regions for a total of 48 teams in the NCAA postseason tournament.
On Monday, the final six teams for each regional tournament will be announced and tournament games could begin as soon as Thursday. The locations of the NCAA regional tournaments will also be announced tomorrow, but will be located on the campus of one of the top-seeded regional participants.
Regional winners advance to the NCAA Division II Softball World Series to be held in Salem, Va., May 16-19.
On day one of the MIAA tournament, the Bulldogs beat Missouri Southern 2-1 after sophomore center fielder Katy Mueller (Affton, Mo./Cor Jesu) hit a two-RBI single in the fourth. Freshman catcher Holly Kessler (Blue Springs, Mo.) and junior second baseman Shelby Ortwerth (Hannibal, Mo.) also had hits in that inning. Sophomore Britni Buford (Kahoka, Mo.) struck out eight batters in taking the win on the mound.
The 'Dogs fell into the loser's bracket after suffering a 4-2 loss to Washburn in game two of the MIAA tournament. Sophomore shortstop Elizabeth Economon (St. Louis/Notre Dame) hit the first of three homers in the game, scoring both of Truman's runs. Senior pitcher Jennifer Hulsopple (Peculiar, Mo./Raymore-Peculiar) took the loss after giving up four earned runs.
The Bulldog rally began on day two of the tournament as Truman registered a 5-4 win over Missouri Western to advance and send the Lady Griffons packing. Tied up at three apiece heading into the fourth inning, the Bulldog pitching corps took over to win the game as Buford drove in the game-winning run with a double, followed by an insurance run when sophomore hurler Breanna Wonderly (Conception, Mo.) drove in Holly Kessler who reached on an error. Buford also got the win on the mound in releif of Wonderly.
Truman had to then face Missouri Southern again, and again dispensed of the Lady Lions, 6-4. MSSC rallied in the top of the seventh, scoring all four of its runs in that inning. The Bulldogs scored two runs in the second inning, followed by one run in the third and three runs in the fourth. Economon was 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles. Wonderly was the winning pitcher in six innings of work.
The Bulldogs would have their fourth shot of the season at Washburn next. Economon pulled the heroics in Truman's 1-0 win, sending a solo shot over the fence in the sixth inning.
Now the 'Dogs would need to beat Central Missouri, the only other remaining team, and would need to beat the Jennies twice to claim the tournament crown.
It took 10 innings in game one, but the Bulldogs reined victorious when Economon hit what would turn out to be a game-winning two-run homer in the top of the 10th. Buford struck out six en route to the win.
In the championship game vs. Central, the Jennies intentionally walked Economon to lead off the fourth inning. A mistake that would prove to be the undoing of CMSU as Economon scored after an error on the fielder's choice by Paul and a sacrifice by Kessler left Economon in scoring position. Freshman utility player Courtney Strubel (Olathe, Kan. St. Thomas Aquinas) drove Economon in with a hit. With sophomore outfielder Catherine Ramsey on third for Paul, Wonderly laid down the suicide squeeze bunt to score Ramsey. Strubel scored on a hit by senior right fielder Cathy Monroe (Kirkwood, Mo./Lutheran South). Mueller singled to score Wonderly and leave the score at 4-1 in Truman's favor. Wonderly pitched six innings and struckout five batters to move her record to 9-4 for the year.
The Jennies added one more run in the bottom of the sixth but fell short of the MIAA crown, 4-2.
It is the second time in three years the Bulldogs have won the MIAA tournament.
Economon was 11-of-18 for the tournament, an incredible .611 batting average over the seven game span, and had three home runs, four doubles and nine RBIs.
NCAA Division II Softball Committee
North Central Region Top 10 Teams
(Final Ranking Before Selection)
1. Nebraska-Omaha 42-6
2. North Dakota State 33-6
3. Washburn 46-8
4. St. Cloud State 34-8
5. Augustana (South Dakota) 45-14
6. Minnesota-Duluth 25-6
7. Missouri Southern State 32-14
8. Central Missouri State 30-15
9. Winona State 38-14-1
10. Northwest Missouri State 28-13
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