WINONA, Minn. -- Squaring up with No. 6 Winona State for the fifth time this season, the No. 15 Augustana softball team shutout the Warriors 4-0 to advance to the NCAA Central Region championship game. Augustana now plays on Saturday at 1 p.m. and faces either St. Cloud State/Missouri Western/Winona State. The Vikings have to drop two games on Saturday to be eliminated.
With the win, Augustana moves to 53-9 on the season. Coach Gretta Melsted, who recently won her 600th career game, ties her program record for wins in a single season with 53. The Vikings all-time program record for wins is 61, set by the 1991 national championship team.
Moments that mattered:
• All three Viking pitchers toed the rubber and pitched outstanding. Ashley Mickschl started (4 IP, 4 SO, 1 hit), Amber Elliott pitched two middle innings (2 IP, 1 hit), and Olivia Wolters slammed the door for her sixth save of the season.
• Samantha Eisenreich had one of the biggest hits of her career, crushing a three-run home run in the fourth inning. The senior has a career-high seven home runs.
• Mary Pardo had the Vikings first RBI, a single up the middle in the third.
• Kendall Cornick and Kara McDougall both had two hits for the Vikings.
• Augustana shattered the single-season runs record and has now scored 434 runs this year.
Friday's game started out with both pitchers allowing just one hit through the first two innings. Mickschl was on her game early, mixing up pitches and collecting three strikeouts in the first three innings.
Starting off the bottom of the third, Maggie Dunnett had the Vikings second hit of the day with a single up the middle. Kara McDougall put down a sac-bunt, but the Warriors were out of place and the Junior reached first. Now with two on, Mary Pardo came up clutch with an RBI single to single. Dunnett scored to make it 1-0 Augustana.
Mickschl continued to pitch into the fourth, collecting her fourth strikeout to get out of a two-on, two-out jam. Moving to the bottom of the fourth, the Viking maintained a 1-0 lead.
The fourth inning belonged to the Viking senior class. Maggie Kadrlik started off with a single up the middle and Shannon Petersen followed with a double to right center. Moments later, Samantha Eisenreich stepped in and sent the offering over the center field fence for a three-run home run. Augustana opened up a 4-0 lead on Winona State.
Amber Elliott came into pitch in the 5th and was nearly flawless. She faced just seven batters, allowing one hit. Olivia Wolters pitched the top of the seventh for Augustana, sending down the Warriors in order.
Augustana advances to the NCAA Central Region championship game and will play either St. Cloud State/Missouri Western/Winona State. Every team remaining has at least one loss, meaning the Vikings will have to lose twice be eliminated.