Eagles are headed back to Super Regionals!

Eagles are headed back to Super Regionals!
(Source: USI)

Allendale, MI - University of Southern Indiana Softball is heading back to the NCAA Division II Midwest Super Regional for the second straight year thanks to a 2-1 win over No. 9 Grand Valley State University in the "if necessary" game of the NCAA II Midwest Region #1 Tournament Sunday afternoon.
 
The Screaming Eagles (34-23), who needed just one win on the day, fell to the Lakers, 5-3, in the first game.
 
USI will open up Super Regionals Thursday at 1:30 p.m. when it visits the University of Illinois Springfield at the Land of Lincoln Junior Olympic Softball Complex in Springfield, Illinois. The best-of-three series continues with game two Friday at noon, while the "if necessary" game is Friday at 2:30 p.m.
 
Game 1: #9 GVSU 5, USI 3
A combined eight runs were scored in the second inning as GVSU scored five times in the top half of the inning to build a 5-0 lead before the Eagles answered with a three spot in the bottom half of the inning to cut into the early deficit.
 
GVSU (44-9) had five hits, including a solo home run and back-to-back run-scoring doubles to produce its offense in the second.
 
The Eagles took advantage of an infield single and two walks to set up junior second baseman Claire Johnson (Pittsboro, Indiana) for a two-out, three-run double that nearly went over the fence for a grand slam.
 
Despite the offensive outburst, both teams settled down on the defensive end to hold the opposing offenses in check throughout the final five frames. Junior pitcher Haylee Smith (Florence, Kentucky) came on in relief in the second frame and scattered three hits throughout 5 1/3 innings of work to keep the Lakers off the scoreboard.
 
Meanwhile, the Eagles got back-to-back hits to leadoff of the fifth inning, but GVSU junior pitcher Allison Lipovsky got back-to-back fly balls followed by a strikeout to retire the threat.
 
Sophomore pitcher Jennifer Leonhardt (Louisville, Kentucky) was charged with the loss after giving up five runs off four hits in 1 2/3 innings of work. Leonhardt (19-12) had a pair of strikeouts and walked one batter in the loss.
 
Game 2: USI 2, #9 GVSU 1
Junior outfielder Caitlyn Bradley (Forest, Indiana) hit a two-out double off the top of the fence in the top half of the fourth inning to give USI a 2-0 lead and Smith navigated her way to a complete-game victory in the circle as USI was triumphant in the "if necessary" game.
 
Bradley's double looked like a three-run home run, but it somehow bounced back into the outfield as USI had to settle for two runs.
 
Smith (6-5) remained in the circle to pitch the beginning of the game and was so affective in keeping the Lakers' hitters off balance, USI Head Coach Sue Kunkle opted to leave her in for the duration.
 
GVSU threatened throughout the contest, including the second inning when senior outfielder Olivia Clark-Kittleson (Carbondale, Illinois) threw out a runner at home plate. The Lakers, who had runners on base in each of the first six innings, loaded the bases in the fourth inning but could not break through.
 
After the Lakers put a run across in the fifth frame to cut USI's advantage in half, GVSU had the leadoff runner on board in the sixth inning only to hit into a double play. Two batters later, with a runner at first base, USI junior outfielder Allison Schubert (Nicholasville, Kentucky) made an over the shoulder grab at the warning track in right field to keep the Lakers off the scoreboard.
 
Smith, who allowed just one run off nine hits and three walks, retired the Lakers in order in the seventh to complete the victory and bring the Eagles to within two wins of their second consecutive trip to the NCAA II Softball Championship.
 
Note: The NCAA II Midwest Super Regional will be a battle between the Great Lakes Valley Conference regular-season champion (UIS) and the GLVC Tournament champion (USI)…Clark-Kittleson had her second extra-base hit of the season with a double off Lipovsky in the opening game. She finished the day by going 4-of-5 at the plate with a double and a pair of runs scored.

Courtesy: USI