Kaitlyn Krol had a pair of hits and two runs batted in as UW-Oshkosh advanced to the NCAA Division III Softball La Crosse Regional final with a 4-2 victory over host UW-La Crosse on Saturday (May 13).
UW-Oshkosh (32-11) will face UW-La Crosse in the regional final at noon Sunday (May 14). The winner of the La Crosse Regional moves on to the super regionals to face Trine University (Ind.) next weekend (May 19-20).
Top-seeded UW-La Crosse (30-15) must beat second-seeded UW-Oshkosh twice on Sunday to reach the super regional round of 16 teams. Due to being the lone unbeaten team at the La Crosse Regional, the Titans can secure a trip to their first super regional by defeating UW-La Crosse in either the game at noon or the potential second regional title game, which would be contested at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
UW-La Crosse, ranked 24th by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, earned a spot in the final of the four-team regional after winning an elimination contest, 4-1, over Benedictine University (Ill.) (34-13) on Saturday.
In Saturday's victory, UW-Oshkosh opened the scoring with a three-run bottom of the third inning. After the Eagles pulled within 3-2 with a pair of unearned runs in the fourth frame, the Titans added an insurance run in the home half of the fifth inning.
The Titans snapped a four-game losing streak to the Eagles, including losses in each of the three previous meetings this season. UW-La Crosse swept a doubleheader from UW-Oshkosh by scores of 5-0 and 4-1 on April 17 in La Crosse. The Eagles also downed the Titans, 5-2, in the opening game of the WIAC Championship on May 5 in Whitewater.
Krol and Claire Petrus both collected a pair of UW-Oshkosh's 10 hits. The Titans, who also coaxed four walks, stranded 11 baserunners.
UW-La Crosse, which was held to just four hits and one walk, committed a season-high five errors that led to two unearned runs.
Titans starting pitcher Bailey Smaney improved her record to 7-1 on the year after allowing two unearned runs on just two hits and one walk across the first four innings.
Sara Brunlieb picked up her second save of the season by pitching the final three frames for the Titans in scoreless fashion. She ceded two hits and recorded a pair of strikeouts without issuing a walk.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning, Krol delivered a single up the middle that scored both Emma Fionda from third base and a sliding Natalie Dudek from second. Fionda reached on an error by Eagles second baseman Jenny Gallagher to begin the inning before Dudek drew a walk against UW-La Crosse starting pitcher Caitlin Hughes.
The Titans tacked on another run in the third inning as Amanda McIlhany hit a two-out single, and Eagles center fielder Brittany Baldwin's subsequent throw to the infield went to the backstop, allowing Krol to cross the plate for a 3-0 UW-Oshkosh advantage.
UW-La Crosse trimmed its deficit to 3-2 on an error by McIlhany, the Titan second baseman, who dropped a popup with two outs and the bases loaded. The Eagles loaded the bases against Smaney on a one-out error by UW-Oshkosh third baseman Erika Berry, a single by Ashley Lindstrom and a walk by Grace Mindrup. Smaney notched a strikeout – the Titans' first punch-out in either of their La Crosse Regional contests – before McIlhany's miscue allowed two runs to score.
After stranding a pair of baserunners in the bottom of the fourth inning, UW-Oshkosh provided the final score on a run-scoring double by Berry in the fifth frame. The only extra-base hit of the game plated Petrus, who flipped a single to left field to lead off the inning.
UW-La Crosse brought the potential tying run to the plate in the top of the sixth inning, but Brunlieb pitched around a one-out single by striking out Sarah Mueller and inducing a soft groundball to Krol at first base.
Brunlieb then completed the victory by tossing a perfect seventh inning, including a strikeout to begin the frame and grounder back to the pitcher's circle for the final out.
UW-Oshkosh left the bases loaded in the first inning before stranding a pair of baserunners in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth frames.
Hughes (10-6) was charged with the loss for the Eagles, surrendering three runs (one earned) on two hits and four walks in two-plus innings pitched.
Eagles relief pitcher Katie Klein, who leads the division with nine saves on the year, yielded one run on six hits in 2.2 innings of work while Jessie Carignan tossed 1.1 scoreless innings on two hits for UW-La Crosse.
Mindrup went 2-for-2 with a walk to lead the Eagles.
UW-Oshkosh has a 26-2 record when its scores at least four runs this season.