ROCHESTER, Minn. -- With a final out from senior Samantha Eisenreich, Augustana secured an 8-1 win over Winona State and stormed the field to celebrate. For the first time since 2011, and the second time in program history, Augustana softball is the Northern Sun Conference tournament champions.
Augustana (51-9) earns an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament and will find out if they're hosting the NCAA central region tournament on Monday morning at the NCAA selection show (9 a.m.). In the final regional rankings, Augustana was No. 3, behind Winona State (No. 2) and Central Oklahoma (No. 1). The top two seeds host the central region tournament.
The Vikings started Saturday off with a tough 1-0 loss to Winona State, but since the tournament is double-elimination, both teams took the field for a winner-take-all game two. Augustana started strong and didn't look back in the 8-1 win. Four members of the Vikings earned all-tournament honors: Mary Pardo, Ashley Mickschl, Kara McDougall, and Samantha Eisenreich.
Augustana head coach Gretta Melsted, who now sits at 599 career wins, is pleased with the way her program responded.
"I'm really proud of our team today. We played hard both games. We hit the ball hard today and our pitchers really threw well. After losing the first game in the bottom of the 7th, I was proud of how our team was able to turn around and respond in a positive fashion. It showed grit, determination, and perseverance."
Moments that mattered:
Ashley Mickschl pitched phenomenally in game one, allowing just one hit and striking out six Warriors.
Kara McDougall finished 3-3 in game one.
Samantha Eisenreich was the story of game two. The senior went 3-3 with a home run and three RBI. Eisenreich also caught the final out on a line drive.
Amber Elliott started game two (2 IP, 0 runs), and Olivia Wolters pitched the final five innings to get the win. Wolters allowed just one run and collected five strikeouts.
McDougall had a two-run triple to break the game open in the second. Mary Pardo had the Vikings other RBI
The Vikings nearly got on the board in the first frame. Kendall Cornick walked, stole second and got into scoring position, but a Shannon Petersen long fly ball just missed the fence by 10 feet.
Ashley Mickschl came out on fire in the bottom of the first, collecting three strikeouts on just 13 pitches. She pitched well into the second, picking up her 4th strikeout of the day.
Still tied 0-0 in the bottom of the third, Winona State threatened with runners on the corners, but Lani Van Zyl popped up into shallow right to end the inning.
Amber Elliott came into the game to start the bottom of the sixth, picked up one strikeout and pitched the final 1.2 innings. In the bottom of the seventh, Winona State started off the frame with a single. Moments later, Carly Kordich doubled to the gap in the center, where Kara McDougall just missed a diving catch. The double gave Winona State the win in walk-off fashion.
In a winner-take-all game two, the Augustana offense broke out in the second inning. Maggie Kadrlik and Shannon Petersen started the frame off with back-to-back singles, and then fellow senior Samantha Eisenreich came up clutch with a two-run single to right center.
Now leading 2-0, Kara McDougall continued to swing a strong bat. The junior blasted the offering to the fence in left center, driving in two more runs and reaching third. Moments later, Mary Pardo drove another run on a fielder choice, making it 5-0. Before the inning was over, Mary Pardo picked up an RBI on a ground out to short.
Olivia Wolters came into pitch the third inning and was strong in the circle. She kept the Warriors off balance, collecting two strikeouts and scattering just a few hits. By the final out, Wolters had pitched the final five innings to get the win. The junior allowed just one run and collected five strikeouts.
Eisenreich added to the offense again in the fourth. The St. Cloud native crushed a solo home run to right center, making it 6-0. Augustana is 44-1 when leading after four innings this season.
Although Winona State got a run back in the sixth, the Vikings added two more in the seventh, Maggie Kadrlik reached on an error, and Kendall Cornick and Pardo both scored to make it 8-1. Wolters pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the games final frame.
Augustana now waits until the NCAA selection show (9 a.m. Monday) to find out central regional fate. In the final regional rankings, Augustana was No. 3, behind Winona State (No. 2) and Central Oklahoma (No. 1). The top two seeds host the NCAA central region tournament.