FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s softball team is 1-1 after one day of hosting one of the two Great Plains Athletic Conference Postseason Tournament brackets. The Warriors will have to win three straight on Friday if they are to make a return appearance in the championship series.
The No. 22 Warriors (29-9 overall) entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed but dropped their opening game 4-3 to the eighth-seeded Dordt Defenders before defeating Northwestern College 11-2 in an elimination game to advance to day two.
“It was nice to see the girls bounce back that second game,” said Midland head coach Mike Heard. “Jaylee [Hinrichs] threw well and the bats came alive. Hopefully we can carry that into tomorrow.”
Despite Dordt being the No. 8 seed, the close contest on Thursday comes as no surprise after the two teams played a pair of one-run games in Sioux Center on April 8. Midland came away victorious in both of those games, but it was the Defenders who conquered their first meeting of the tournament.
The Warriors scored first in the 2:00 p.m. game as Angela Brazil launched a solo home run to centerfield in the second inning. Later in the frame, Kylie Engleman singled home Brianna Brabec to put the Warriors up 2-0.
Midland starter Jaylee Hinrichs held the Defenders scoreless until the fourth inning when Brooklyn Van Oor’s two-RBI single scored a pair of unearned runs that tied the game at 2-2.
Alex Van Der Werf got the lead back for the Warriors as her ground-rule double to right centerfield scored Brazil in the bottom half of the fourth. Midland controlled the 3-2 lead until the top of the sixth when Dordt again gave Hinrichs some issues.
Hailey Heeringa tied the game with a solo home run to centerfield. Later, the Defenders took a 4-3 lead as Carley De Roin scored on a groundout from Van Oort.
The Warriors threatened to tie the game again in the bottom half but left two runners stranded in the sixth and went down in order in the seventh as Dordt pulled the upset and sent the top-seeded Warriors to the loser’s bracket.
“Unfortunately, we let that first game get away from us. It just shows that the small things matter,” Heard said. “Some very poor base running and an error at the wrong time were the difference. I thought we hit and pitched well enough to win, but didn’t do all the other things that matter.”
Tianna Soodsma earned the win as she tossed 4.0 innings and allowed two earned runs. Rachel Evavold pitched 3.0 innings of relief and allowed just two hits to help secure the win for the Defenders.
In the 6:00 p.m. elimination game, the Warriors took care of the Northwestern College Red Raiders by a final score of 11-2 in just six innings. Northwestern was sent to the loser’s bracket after an 11-0 loss to Jamestown in the first game of the day.
Each team nabbed one run in the first frame as Northwestern scored first as Emily Bosch came home on a passed ball. Midland got the run back as Katlin Anders launched a solo home run, her 11th of the season, to right field to tie the game.
Midland took a brief 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third as Bobbi Singleton doubled home Sierra Athow, but the Red Raiders tied the game again in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Bri Giordano.
From there, the game belonged to the Warriors as they scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth and another five runs in the sixth inning to win by way of the eight-run mercy rule. Brazil’s three-run home run, her second of the day and seventh of the season, served as the final blow that keeps Midland alive for another day.
Brazil, Anders, and Brabec each had multi-hit games in the elimination game, but it was Brazil who led the way with five RBIs. Hinrichs pitched every inning for the Warriors on Thursday and earned the win in game two, moving her record to 20-5.
Thanks to a big bounce back by the offense against Northwestern, the Warriors are still alive in their side of the bracket as they vie for the program’s first conference tournament championship since 2004. Midland will have to win the rematch with Dordt and defeat Jamestown twice on Friday to secure a place in the championship series.
Midland and Dordt will face off in an elimination game to start day two of the GPAC Tournament on Friday at 12:00 p.m. at Christensen Field in Fremont, Nebraska.