WINONA, Minn. -- With the season on the line, the No. 15 Augustana softball team stepped up and made a statement on Saturday afternoon. Following a loss to Winona State in game one, Augustana bounced back and outlasted the Warriors 3-2 for the NCAA Central Region II title.
Augustana (54-10), who earns a berth in the super regionals for the first time since 2015, takes on Central Oklahoma in a three-game series starting on Thursday. All games will be played on the campus of UCO in Edmond, Oklahoma, and game times are still to be announced. It's the Vikings fifth super regional appearance under head coach Gretta Melsted.
Coach Melsted, who won her career-best 54th game today, is thrilled to be heading to the super regionals and proud of her entire team.
"Credit to Winona State - they played a great game, but once that final out comes, it's a huge sigh of relief," Melsted said. "It's excitement, it's joy, it's everything those kids have worked so hard for all year long. It's very exciting."
Moments that mattered:
Christina Pickett had the Vikings only run and RBI in game one, sending a solo home run over the fence in left field.
Ashley Mickschl pitched well in game one, allowing just one run and striking out four in five innings of work.
All three Viking pitchers tossed an inning-plus in game two, with Olivia Wolters earning the win. Wolters pitched 3.2 innings, allowing 0 runs and striking out two.
Mary Pardo started the scoring with a solo home run in game two.
Shannon Petersen delivered an RBI single to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead.
Mickschl had the game-winning RBI, a single up the middle in the fourth inning.
Similar to Friday's matchup, both teams started off with zeros in the first two frames. Augustana starter Ashley Mickschl picked up two strikeouts in the first inning alone and faced just seven batters in the first two frames.
Maggie Kadrlik picked the up the Vikings first hit of the game in the second inning, but Augustana couldn't push the run across. Kara McDougall had another Viking hit in the third.
In the bottom of the third, Mickschl ran into trouble but got out of a two-on, two-out jam. Mickschl pitched five innings, allowing just one run.
The Vikings plated the game's first run in the top of the fifth. Junior Christina Pickett stepped in smashed a solo home run over the left field fence, making it 1-0.
Winona State tied the game in the fifth inning on a bases-loaded walk, and then in the bottom of the seventh, hit a walk-off single to center field for a 2-1 win. The win forced a winner-take-all game two at Maynard R. Johnson Field.
Following a coin flip, but teams traded dugouts as the Vikings took over as the home team for game two. Game two marked the seventh and final time Augustana and Winona State squared up this season.
Winona State scored a run in the top of the first, but the Vikings answered in their first at-bat. NSIC Freshman of the Year Mary Pardo launched a solo home run more than 50 feet over the left field fence, knotting the game up at 1-1.
Mickschl pitched into the second, but her day would end after two innings pitched with one run allowed. Amber Elliott pitched 1.1 innings for the Vikings, collecting a pair of strikeouts.
The Augustana offense went back to work in the third. Kendall Cornick blooped a double down the left field line, and then Shannon Petersen came up clutch with an RBI single up the middle. After three complete, Augustana had built a 2-1 lead.
Winona State answered with a solo home run, but the Viking offense responded in the fourth. Samantha Eisenreich and Maggie Dunnett both walked to start the frame before Becca Koupal came in to pinch run for Eisenreich. Now with two outs, Mickschl delivered a clutch single up the middle, scoring Koupal for the game-winning run.
Olivia Wolters came into the game in the third and was nearly flawless. Wolters pitched 3.2 innings, allowing 0 runs and striking out two. Following a final ground-ball out, the Vikings stormed the field and dog-piled on home plate to celebrate.
Augustana now takes on Central Oklahoma in a three-game super regional. The series starts on Thursday and all games will be played on the campus of UCO in Edmond, Oklahoma. The eight super region winners advance to the women's college world series.