DULUTH, Minn. (Augustana) – For the third-straight year, the Augustana softball team is the NSIC Champion. The Vikings entered Sunday a game behind Minnesota Duluth in the NSIC standings and simply swept the Bulldogs to keep their hold on the conference title. The Vikings run-ruled UMD in game one, 17-4, then followed with a 16-11 game two victory.
Amongst the highlights, Torri Chute, the batting average leader in the NSIC for conference-only contests, went 8-for-10 on the day while Gracey Brink was 7-for-10.
Augustana concludes the regular season with a 36-13 overall record while winning the NSIC with a 23-5 mark. Minnesota Duluth ends its regular season at 36-11, 22-6.
The Vikings will now be the No. 1 seed in the 2023 NSIC Tournament beginning Wednesday and will play the lowest seed remaining after the first two contests at 2 p.m.
Game One: Augustana 17, Minnesota Duluth 4
The Vikings controlled the contest from the first pitch to the last by scoring four runs in four of the five innings, while putting up one run in the other inning. In addition, the Vikings pounded the Bulldogs for a season-high 22 hits.
Torri Chute opened the scoring for AU when just three batters in she pushed a 3-0 lead as she homered to left-center. Sydney Herbert singled through the left side to score Ashton Dorman and make it 4-0 after the top of the first.
UMD answered back with a single run in the bottom of the first, but AU just kept hitting in the second with four more runs. Delaney Young and Herbert each doubled in two runs for the 8-1 score.
The third inning was the single-run inning for AU and that was simply Gracey Brink homering to center field.
The Bulldogs scored their final runs of the game in the bottom of the third, totaling three in the inning but AU was just too much, adding four more runs in the fourth and four in the fifth.
Among the highlights of the two innings was a two-run single from Chute in the fourth and a three-run home run by Abby Lien in the fifth.
Of the 22 hits, four each came from the bats of Brink, Chute and Herbert. Chute ended the contest with five RBI as well.
In the circle, Hailey Houston tossed the complete-game by striking out seven Bulldogs and allowing seven hits. The Vikings put a short leash on the Bulldog starting pitcher, Lauren Dixon. The NSIC Preseason Pitcher of the Year had her NSIC earned runs doubled as she entered having given up just seven earned runs on the season and gave up 11 to AU.
Game Two: Augustana 16, Minnesota Duluth 11
Augustana recorded 21 hits in the winner-take-conference contest to prevail 16-11 and secure the NSIC Championship. The game featured hits, runs and drama as the Vikings jumped out to a 2-1 lead after one inning.
Abby Lien got the scoring starting with a home run over the left-center field fence. Three batters later, Ashton Dorman hit a double into center field which scored Torri Chute.
The Bulldogs answered with a home run in the bottom half of the inning to make it 2-1.
For the first time between either game, the Vikings did not score in an inning when the second inning closed. However, Chute extended AU’s lead in the third with a home run to center field.
UMD once again made it a one-run game in the bottom of the third on a home run of its own.
That’s when Augustana’s offense kicked into another gear with a six-run fourth inning. Gracey Brink hit a three-run home run over the left-field fence. That was followed three batters later by Delaney Young with a three-run home run of her own.
With the score 9-2, the Bulldogs put together a six-run inning of their own in the fourth to pull within a run at 9-8.
If the drama for a conference championship wasn’t enough, neither team could get the offense back in motion in the fifth inning, marking just the second time all day that AU did not score a run in their half of an inning.
The dry spell did not last long though as Kennedy Buckman added to her NSIC lead for home runs in the bottom of the sixth. Her 20th moonshot of the season went to center field and scored Dorman and Young for the 12-8 advantage.
Minnesota Duluth tried to keep a glimmer of hope alive in the bottom of the sixth by piecing a run together, but the Vikings got out of the jam to head to the seventh inning with a 12-9 lead.
That’s when the offense continued to forge ahead with four more runs. Torri Chute singled into center field to score Brink while Young doubled in two runs. The final run of the game came courtesy of Dorman as she singled into right-center field to score Young.
Despite the Bulldogs plating two runs in the bottom of the seventh, the Vikings prevailed 16-11 to score 33 runs over the two games on 43 hits.
Of Augustana’s 21 hits in game two, Chute recorded four of them with four runs scored while Brink, Lien, Dorman and Dierks each had three hits. In the circle, the Vikings threw three pitchers with Lexi Lander earning the win after striking out five. Helene Krage pitched 1.2 innings while Hailey Houston tossed two innings.
Up Next
Augustana will play the lowest seed of the four seeds competing to open the tournament at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Those four teams are Minot State, Sioux Falls, Bemidji State and Concordia-St. Paul.