FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s softball team will have to wait at least one more season to try to end the program’s conference tournament title drought as the Warriors were bounced from the 2019 tournament on Friday.
The No. 22 Warriors (31-10 overall) won big twice on Friday before falling to the University of Jamestown Jimmies 3-1 in the final game of the Midland bracket. The fifth-seeded Jimmies moved on to the Great Plains Athletic Conference Postseason Tournament Championship Series on Saturday at second-seeded Morningside. Second-seeded Morningside would need three games to win the tournament, joining Midland as the GPAC’s two automatic bids to the NAIA Opening Round.
“I thought, overall, we played well today,” said Midland head coach Mike Heard. “The first two games were pretty complete games offensively and defensively.”
After going 1-1 on Thursday to open the tournament, the Warriors entered Friday in need of three wins in order to stay alive in the tournament. Midland won two games by wide margins and appeared to be in the driver’s seat.
First, the Warriors got revenge on the Dordt Defenders after the No. 8 seed upset Midland on Thursday. Midland beat Dordt 9-2 on Friday thanks in part to a big six-run third inning that was punctuated by a Kylie Engleman grand slam.
The Warriors advanced to play Jamestown, who entered Friday at 2-0 in the double-elimination bracket. Midland won 9-1 in just five innings, again thanks to big innings for the Warrior offense.
Midland scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and five runs in the second inning to aide in the victory. Angela Brazil led the way in that game with three RBIs while Katlin Anders and Sierra Athow each added two of their own.
The win forced a decisive win-or-go-home game with the Jimmies to conclude the Midland bracket. Jamestown starter Katie Merchant was roughed up in the 9-1 game, but responded nicely and made the Warriors uncomfortable in the final game.
While Merchant was on her game, Jamestown took an early 1-0 lead as Sydney Prussia launched a solo home run to left field to lead off the top of the second inning.
The Warriors managed to steal a run from the Jimmies in the bottom of the third inning When Anders grounded to short with two outs. With runners at first and second, Anders hustled down the line and beat the throw to first. Jamie Phares took off from second base and never stopped running and scored when the throw arrived late at first base, tying the game at 1-1.
Jamestown retook the lead in the top of the fifth inning as pinch-runner Mariah Wick scored on a single to centerfield after Andrea Cespedes failed to pick the ball up cleanly. The Jimmies added another run in the sixth inning as Katie Reisdorfer doubled in Meghan Ramage.
Midland brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning but couldn’t capitalize as Athow bounced into a fielder’s choice. With the win, the Jimmies advanced to the championship series in their first season in the GPAC.
“We did some good stuff in the last game, but we just weren’t able to finish it off,” Heard said.
Merchant surrendered just seven hits and one earned run in seven innings to the Warriors after Midland scored nine or more runs in the three games prior. She outdueled Midland’s Jaylee Hinrichs who, despite earning three wins in the GPAC Tournament, was saddled with a loss in the final game.
The good news is that because the Warriors claimed the regular season title by way of the head-to-head tiebreaker with Morningside, they will be receiving an automatic berth to the 2019 NAIA National Tournament for the second straight season.
“We will take a few days to rest and then prepare for the national championship tournament,” Heard said. “We are excited to see where we play and go see what we can do.”
Opening round destinations and opponents will be finalized this weekend as conferences determine postseason champions. Teams will learn their destinations in an NAIA official release on Tuesday, May 7.