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Titans Suffer Two Setbacks at WIAC Championship

Natalie Dudek was 5-for-12 with a double and two home runs in the Titans' four contests at the WIAC Championship.
Natalie Dudek was 5-for-12 with a double and two home runs in the Titans' four contests at the WIAC Championship.

UW-Oshkosh's run at the WIAC Softball Championship came to an end following a pair of setbacks Saturday (May 4) in Whitewater.

UW-Oshkosh (23-17) suffered a 10-2 defeat in five innings to UW-Eau Claire during the winner's bracket title game before concluding the season with a 6-2 loss in eight innings against UW-La Crosse in an elimination contest.

Second-seeded UW-Eau Claire (26-9-1) and fourth-seeded UW-La Crosse (23-17) will meet for the WIAC postseason title Sunday (May 5) in Whitewater. UW-Oshkosh, which was attempting to become the first fifth-seeded team to win the WIAC Championship, finished the tournament in third among five qualifying teams.

In Saturday's other elimination game, UW-La Crosse ousted top seed and six-time defending league postseason champion UW-Whitewater (26-12) by an 8-7 score.

During the winner's bracket title game, UW-Eau Claire raced out to an early 9-0 lead behind a four-run top of the first inning and five runs in the second frame.

UW-Oshkosh cut its deficit to 9-2 following a run-scoring single from Kaitlyn Krol and a solo home run by Natalie Dudek, but the Blugolds invoked the eight-run rule with a run in the fifth inning.

UW-Eau Claire collected nine hits, including two each from Mikayla McEnery, Abbey Place, Katie Rongstad and Brooke Varian, who doubled twice and drove in three runs.

The home run was Dudek's third of the season and her second in two days at the WIAC Championship. She finished the game 2-for-2 with a double, home run and two runs scored.

Blugolds starting pitcher Sarah Peka (12-5) picked up the win after allowing two runs on four hits in four innings.

Claire Petrus (9-9) was charged with the loss for the Titans, yielding four runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning.

In the season-ending loss to UW-La Crosse, the teams battled to a 1-1 tie through six innings, and a tendentious and dramatic seventh frame was not enough to determine a winner.

Stephanie Cole's run-scoring single staked UW-La Crosse to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Petrus knotted the score by lifting a home run just beyond Cole's outstretched arm above the center field wall.

A pitcher's duel ensued for the next four innings as UW-Oshkosh's Bailey Smaney held UW-La Crosse scoreless on two hits between the third and sixth frames while three different Eagles combined to allow two hits during the span.

The eventful seventh inning began in earnest following an obstruction ruling. The Eagles had runners at first and second bases with two outs, when Sabrina Scardamaglia hit a single to Titans center fielder Acacia Tupa, who then fired to catcher Abby Menting in an attempt to prevent UW-La Crosse pinch-runner Emily Lyman from scoring the go-ahead run from second base. Tupa's throw arrived in plenty of time to nab Lyman as Menting completed the tag several feet from the plate up the third base line. However, Menting was deemed to have committed obstruction on the play, allowing Lyman to score.

The obstruction call was eventually upheld following a long delay as a four-member conclave of umpires and officials debated the proper consequences of the original ruling on the field.

Trailing 2-1 with the season on the line in the home half of the seventh inning, the Titans bounced back with a run of their own. Amanda McIlhany led off the frame with a single and advanced to second base on a Kailee Garstecki sacrifice bunt. Pinch-hitter Jordan Manthei then plated McIlhany with a single that caromed off of second base and into shallow right field.

An Eagle error put Titans at first and second bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, but UW-Oshkosh stranded the winning run in scoring position as UW-La Crosse relief pitcher Maddie Muelken induced a pair of groundballs to send the game to extra innings.

UW-La Crosse scored four times in the top of the eighth inning. Kendra Leis provided the Eagles the lead for good at 4-2 with a two-run homer with no outs.

Emily Knight, Mia Schmidtke and Sydne Shattuck each accounted for two of the Eagles' 12 hits.

Muelken (6-5) was credited with the win in relief after holding the Titans to one run on four hits across the final three innings.

Petrus went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run for UW-Oshkosh. She finished the season with a team-leading six homers and 29 RBIs.

Krol and Menting concluded their UW-Oshkosh careers tied for third in program history with 66 walks. Menting also lists sixth in the school record book with 38 career doubles and seventh with 17 home runs.