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Titans Open WIAC Championship Against Blue Devils

Titans Open WIAC Championship Against Blue Devils

UW-Oshkosh puts its league-leading seven-game winning streak on the line when it opens the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Softball Championship (presented by Culver's) against UW-Stout on Friday (May 4) in Whitewater. The opening pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at UW-Whitewater's van Steenderen Softball Complex.

UW-Oshkosh (23-10), the five-team tournament's second seed, swept a doubleheader at home against third-seed UW-Stout (21-10) by scores of 3-1 and 11-4 on April 30. The Titans, who have won eight of their last nine meetings with the Blue Devils, will be playing UW-Stout at the conference championship for the fifth consecutive season.

The opening day of the double-elimination league tournament begins with fourth-seeded UW-Eau Claire (20-16) facing fifth-seeded UW-River Falls (21-13) at 11 a.m. Top-seeded and five-time defending WIAC tournament champion UW-Whitewater (22-11-1) will then face the winner of the first contest. Friday's action concludes with an elimination contest at 5 p.m.

The WIAC Championship continues with three games Saturday (May 5) and culminates with the title game on Sunday (May 6). The winner of the WIAC Championship earns the league's automatic berth to the 62-team NCAA Division III Championship that commences May 10. 

UW-Oshkosh is seeking to avenge a loss to UW-Stout in last year's WIAC Championship as the Blue Devils eliminated the Titans from the tournament by a 2-1 score. UW-Stout, which owns a 4-3 WIAC postseason record against UW-Oshkosh, also downed the Titans at the tournament in 2001, 2005 and 2014, while UW-Oshkosh defeated the Blue Devils in 2009, 2015 and 2016.

This season's matchup features the Titans' high-scoring offense against the speedy Blue Devils, who pace the WIAC with 71 stolen bases. UW-Oshkosh is averaging a conference-leading 6.2 runs per game while also topping the league with a .396 on-base percentage and a program-record 19 triples. The Titans rank eighth in the country in both triples and double plays turned at 0.58 per game.

UW-Oshkosh, which ranks second in the conference with a .325 batting average, features eight regulars hitting above .300 on the year.

Senior third baseman Erika Berry has a .400 batting average while leading the Titans with 38 hits, eight doubles and a .468 on-base percentage. The three-time All-WIAC selection has 13 multiple-hit games this season.

Sophomore second baseman Amanda McIlhany is hitting .372 and leads UW-Oshkosh with 25 runs scored and three home runs. Junior first baseman Kaitlyn Krol has a team-high 25-runs batted in while batting .360 with 15 walks and just two strikeouts.

Titan regulars also hitting better than .300 are sophomore outfielder Acacia Tupa (.358), sophomore utility player Natalie Dillon (.317) and sophomore shortstop Natalie Dudek (.313). Tupa, who has compiled a .691 slugging and .458 on-base percentages, paces the WIAC with five triples and shares the team lead with three home runs.

Freshman utility player Kailee Garstecki, who hit a two-run walk-off homer against UW-Stout this season, is hitting .429 in 35 at-bats. Sophomore utility player Claire Petrus has a .385 batting average and a .846 slugging percentage as nine of her 10 hits this year have gone for extra bases.

A total of nine Titans have combined to hit 14 home runs this season, including Krol with two and one each from Berry, Garstecki, Petrus, freshman infielder Addison Brickson, junior catcher Abby Menting and freshman outfielder Carly Szada.

In the pitcher's circle, Petrus and junior Bailey Smaney have accounted for all but 27.2 of the Titans' innings as UW-Oshkosh sports a 3.39 earned run average on the year.

Petrus has a 12-7 record with a 2.80 earned run average and 45 strikeouts in 107.2 innings pitched. She ranks second in the WIAC in both wins and innings pitched.

Smaney is 9-2 with a team-leading 2.64 earned run average, 49 strikeouts and three saves in 79.2 innings pitched. Her .818 winning percentage is best in the conference.

The Titans and Blue Devils have both won one WIAC Championship title in the 28 years of the event. UW-Stout secured its lone title in 2005 while UW-Oshkosh accomplished the feat in 2008.

UW-Stout enters the tournament with a .323 batting average and a 3.01 earned run average.

Blue Devils sophomore outfielder Mary Iliopoulus leads the conference with a .529 batting average, a .570 on-base percentage and a .729 slugging percentage to go along with a team-high 34 runs, 45 hits and 22 stolen bases. Iliopoulus is on pace to break the WIAC record for season batting average of .500, which was last accomplished by UW-Oshkosh's Whitney Tornow in 2010.

UW-Stout sophomore outfielder Kincaide Diedrich is hitting .403 and paces the Blue Devils with three home runs, 22 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases.

Freshman utility player Sommer Kunstmann, junior infielder Alicia Meyer and freshman utility player Renee Murphy have each hit three of UW-Stout's 19 home runs on the season.

Utility player Beth Wood has a .400 batting average while ranking second on the team with 38 hits and 21 RBIs. Wood is also the ace of the UW-Stout pitching staff, accumulating a 10-4 record with a 3.03 earned run average and 51 strikeouts in 99.1 innings pitched. She has accounted for more than half of the Blue Devils' WIAC-low 99 strikeouts in the pitcher's circle.

Rounding out the Blue Devil pitching staff are Kunstmann and freshman Melea Bruns. Bruns has a 5-3 record with a team-best 2.52 earned run average while Kunstmann is 4-3 with a 3.33 earned run average.

UW-Whitewater, which is 8-0 at home this season, boasts a pitching staff that leads the WIAC in earned run average (2.06), strikeouts per seven innings (7.02), opponent batting average (.216) and shutouts (8).

Julia Camardo, a junior, and sophomore Bella Matthias have combined to appear in 32 of the Warhawks' 34 games in the pitcher's circle this year, including 29 in a starting role.

Camardo has a 10-5 record with a 1.67 earned run average and 93 strikeouts in 88 innings pitched while Matthias, the reigning WIAC Pitcher of the Year, is 8-4 with a 2.53 earned run average and 86 strikeouts in 77.1 innings. Camardo is limiting opponents to a league-low .206 batting average.

The Warhawks, who have won 57 of their last 68 home games, are hitting .308 on the year.

Senior outfielder Mallory Klotz has a .362 batting average and leads UW-Whitewater with 29 runs, 38 hits and four home runs.

UW-Whitewater freshman outfielder Vera Pflugradt is hitting a team-high .412 while sophomore outfielder Megan Schweitzer has a .352 batting average and a WIAC-best 26 stolen bases. Junior outfielder Caitlin Catino is batting .337 and paces the Warhawks with 10 doubles.

UW-Eau Claire ranks seventh in the conference with a .286 batting average and fourth with a 2.94 earned run average. The Blugolds have drawn a league-leading 104 walks on the year.

Leading the Blugold offense are sophomore outfielder Katie Rongstad and sophomore catcher Gretchen Arneson, who are hitting .345 and .323, respectively. Rongstad paces the squad with 33 runs, 38 hits, 12 stolen bases and a .455 on-base percentage. Arneson is the team leader with 10 doubles, 19 runs batted in and a .542 slugging percentage.

Sophomore utility player Sarah Peka is UW-Eau Claire's top pitcher, producing a 10-9 record with a 2.72 earned run average and 48 strikeouts in 105.1 innings.

UW-River Falls' formidable offense tops the WIAC with a .332 batting average, 70 doubles, 30 home runs and a .506 slugging percentage. The Falcons' six runs per game ranks second in the league.

Eight different Falcons have contributed at least 15 runs batted in this season, including sophomore catcher Noelle Senour, who leads the conference with 10 home runs and 80 total bases while hitting .381 and driving in a team-high 30 runs.

Junior first baseman Kaia Dorn paces UW-River Falls with a .404 batting average and 10 stolen bases.

The UW-River Falls pitching staff is spearheaded by starters Payton Speckel and Hannah Stegeman, and senior reliever Maddie Studnicka. Speckel and Stegeman have combined to start each of the Falcons' 34 games while Studnicka, who has a 4-3 record and a 2.56 earned run average, ranks third in the nation with five saves and leads the team with 27 pitching appearances while adding six home runs at the plate.

Speckel, a junior, has a 10-6 record with a 5.02 earned run average and 70 strikeouts in 83.2 innings pitched. Stegeman, a freshman, is 7-4 with a 4.75 earned run average and 31 strikeouts in 73.2 innings.

UW-Oshkosh, which owns a 46-56 record in league postseason play, is attempting to become the fourth second-seeded team in six years to win the WIAC Championship. UW-Whitewater claimed the first three of their five straight titles as the second seed from 2013-15.

UW-Whitewater has won nine of the previous 28 WIAC postseason titles. UW-Eau Claire is next with six conference tournament championships, while UW-River Falls has claimed four and UW-La Crosse one.

WIAC Softball Championship Website