Courtesy of Midland Athletics
|FREMONT, Neb. – It took all three games of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Championship Series to decide a winner on Saturday afternoon. Midland University took the opening game of the day, 4-3, before Mount Marty University mounted a comeback with back-to-back wins, 1-0 and 2-0, to capture the banner. It was a great battle between the conference’s best and both teams will move on to the NAIA Championship Opening Round, earning the GPAC’s two automatic bids.
GAME ONE: Midland 4, Mount Marty 3
After giving up a run in the top of the 1st, the Warriors responded with a pair of their own in the bottom. Emily Prai led off with a walk and then moved over to third after Aliyah Rincon reached on an error by the Lancers’ third baseman. Roni Foote then hit a sacrifice fly to left, bringing Prai in to score and advancing Rincon to third. Rincon was brought in on a single by Diana Nisbett three batters later, giving Midland a 2-1 lead.
Mount Marty worked their way to a tie with a run in the 3rd and then moved in front with a run in th3 5th.
In the bottom of the 5th, Foote came through with the biggest hit of the day as she launched a ball to left field with Prai on base. The ball had just enough to make its way over the fence, giving the Warriors a 4-3 lead.
Rincon shut the door on the Lancers in the 6th and 7th, allowing two hits. For the game, she went the distance, spreading eight hits over seven innings while earning three strikeouts.
· Emily Prai: 1-for-2, 2 R, BB, SB
· Roni Foote: 2-for-2, R, 3 RBI, HR, SAC FLY
· Diana Nisbett: 1-for-3, RBI
GAME TWO: Mount Marty 1, Midland 0
It was tough going for the offenses in the second game of the series as each team started their senior pitcher in the circle. Hailee Fliam got the call for the Warriors and pitched a six-hitter on her birthday and graduation day. She went a full seven innings, allowing one run while striking out three.
Her counterpart, Maureena Vornhagen also went a full seven innings, allowing just two hits and one walk, while striking out six Warriors.
The lone, deciding run of the game came in the top of the 7th as the Lancers led off with a single followed by an error, putting the go-ahead run on second base. Following a sacrifice bunt to move her to third, Mount Marty’s Janeah Castro hit a liner up the middle to score the eventual winning run.
Midland was set down in order in their final at-bat, grounding out to the infield.
· Hailee Fliam: 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 K
· Emily Prai: 1-for-3, SB
GAME THREE: Mount Marty 2, Midland 0
With the series tied at a game apiece, each team sent out their winning pitcher for the third game. Just like game two, it was another pitchers’ duel with Midland’s Aliyah Rincon taking on Mount Marty’s Maureena Vornhagen.
Rincon worked her way through a few stretches in the middle innings but went the complete game. She gave up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out four. Vornhagen kept things rolling from game two with just three hits allowed with six punchouts.
The Lancers plated a run in the 2nd and another in the 3rd as they relied on their pitching and defense throughout. In the 2nd, they worked the bases loaded and then got an RBI fielder’s choice to break the scoreless tie. The 3rd inning saw them get a timely single to center with a runner on second for the extremely valuable insurance run.
Midland had a tough going against the Lancers’ ace. They got a leadoff hit to start the 1st from Emily Prai. Rincon moved her up to second with a sacrifice bunt, but the defense clamped down with back-to-back groundouts.
In the 3rd, Prai found herself on second once more. She reached on a fielder’s choice and then stole second with two outs but was left stranded.
· Aliyah Rincon: 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 K
· Emily Prai: 1-for-3, SB
Midland (36-10) will learn their destination and opening-round foes on Tuesday when the NAIA releases the pods for the ten championship opening round sites. The Warriors will be making their fourth straight appearance in the NAIA Postseason, having made it to the first stage of the national tournament in 2018, 2019, and 2021.