SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Augustana College softball, the No. 3 seed in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament, punched its ticket to Saturday's championship game with a 3-1 win over No. 1 seed Minnesota State (43-10) on Friday evening. The Vikings (43-11) find themselves in the NSIC Championship game for the fourth time since 2010.
The final day of the NSIC Championships will get underway at 10 a.m. tomorrow with No. 2 seed Winona State taking on No. 7 seed U-Mary. The winner of that game will play No. 1 seed Minnesota State at 12 p.m. for a chance to get to the championship game.
Augustana is currently ranked fourth in the NCAA Central Region while Minnesota State is ranked third.
No. 25 Augustana took a 2-0 lead over Augustana in the top of the fourth inning and kept coming up with big play after big play in the field to down the Mavericks. The Vikings added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning which proved to be helpful as the Mavericks scored their lone run of the game in the bottom of the sixth.
Carley Pickett (15-5) kept the Mavericks off balance all day getting the complete game victory for the Vikings. Pickett struck out three batters in the game and allowed just one run to earn her 15th win of the season.
Jenelle Trautmann came up with the big blast for the Vikings in the win hitting a towering two-run home run in the fourth inning. Trautmann finished the game 2 for 3 with two RBI and a run scored. Sarah Kennedy also picked up two hits for the Vikings going 2 for 4 and scoring two runs.
Both teams turned big double plays in the first inning to get out of early jams. Augustana got a great at bat from Caitlin Nichol to lead off the game as she fought-off three pitches to earn a walk. Mackenzie Alstott tried to bunt Nichol over but she was forced out at second while Alstott reached on the fielder's choice. Kennedy then lined out sharply to first base and Alstott was doubled-off on the play to end the inning.
The Vikings turned a double-play of their own in the bottom of the first inning after Nichol snagged a line drive at third and the MSU runners did not advance and Nichol threw to first then Trautmann to second to double off the Mavericks.
Both teams left two runners on in the second inning and the pitchers took over in the third both getting 1-2-3 innings. Augustana then broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning taking a 2-0 lead. Kennedy led off the inning with a sharp single to center field and four pitches later Trautmann sent a monster home run to left field for her 16th of the season and fourth of the conference tournament.
Pickett stranded MSU runners in the fourth and fifth innings and the Vikings picked her up with an insurance run in the top of the sixth. Kennedy and Trautmann got back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth inning for the Vikings. Kennedy moved up to third on Trautmann's single and she gave Augustana a 3-0 lead when Lindsay Spanton drove her in with a sacrifice fly.
Minnesota State picked up a run on four hits in the bottom of the sixth inning to get within two at 3-1 but the Vikings escaped without any further damage thanks to an interference play with runners on first and third with two outs. Chelsea Riordan looked to bring the Mavericks within one with a sharp hit to the right side of the infield that hit her teammate Tatum Klein going from first to second for interference and the final out of the inning.
The Vikings got a base runner in the seventh after Nichol was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game but were unable to add another run. Pickett then got two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh on a lineout and a strikeout. Samantha Holien was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning but Pickett got Lindsay Erickson to pop out to shortstop to end the game.
The Vikings have a shot at their second NSIC Tournament Championship since joining the league in 2009. Augustana will be playing for the conference tournament championship for the fourth time since 2010. Augustana has won one NSIC Tournament Championship, that coming in 2011.
Courtesy: Augustana Tim Evans