On a miserable day, Augustana denies UMD softball league championship
Augustana had 33 runs on 43 hits in 12 innings.
DULUTH — Weather conditions at Malosky Stadium on Sunday were hardly fit for human or beast and they certainly were no good for pitchers.
With a fierce north wind acting as an air brake for pitchers and a launching pad for batted balls, Augustana took two wins and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference softball regular-season championship from Minnesota Duluth, 17-4 and 16-11.
The Vikings probably didn't need the help — at .366, they had the highest team batting average in the league by 34 points and 18 more home runs than the second-place team — but Sunday, they had 43 hits in 12 innings and were never once retired in order.
UMD, meanwhile, has built its success on pitching, entering the game with a team ERA of 1.77, .75 runs better than the rest of the league. They needed only one win to clinch their first NSIC championship since 2013 and first undivided championship since 2002 from two games but were behind at the conclusion of every inning played.
Augustana scored four times in each of the first two innings of game one for an 8-1 lead and tagged UMD pitcher Lauren Dixon (who entered the game with an ERA of 1.73) with 11 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, more than she'd allowed in all of her previous starts in conference play combined.
A Sidney Zavoral homer and Julia Gronholz RBI triple made it 9-4 after three innings, but Augie recorded two more four-run innings to trigger the run rule.
Torri Chute was 4-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs for Augustana, which had 22 hits and seven players with two or more.
For UMD, Zavoral and Gronholz had two hits apiece.
Game two wasn't more comfortable to observe but had a little more hope. In the second inning, UMD held Augustana off the scoreboard for the first time all day, and after surrendering six runs in the top of the fourth, the Bulldogs responded with six of their own in the bottom half of the inning to make it 9-8.
A two-out rally in the top of the sixth capped by a three-run homer from Augustana's Kennedy Buckman reopened the wound on the scoreboard. UMD pulled one run back, but the Vikings scored four times in the top of the seventh and even after RBI singles from Dea DeLeon (Esko) and Kiana Bender (Cloquet) for UMD in the bottom half of the inning, UMD's rally was extinguished well short of its goal.
Chute was 4-for-5 with a homer again, while four Vikings had three hits apiece, with Delaney Young recording five RBIs.
For UMD Corrie Weise homered, drove in two and was 4-for-5, while Bender was 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Mady Stariha (Superior), who entered the game as the NSIC's ERA leader at 1.42, took the loss, allowing nine earned runs on 12 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
UMD (36-11, 22-6 NSIC) will be the second seed for the NSIC tournament, which begins on Wednesday in Rochester.