Ninth-ranked Morningside advanced to Saturday’s championship game in the Morningside Bracket of the GPAC Post-Season Softball Tournament with a pair of victories in Friday’s action at the Jensen Softball Complex.
The Mustangs posted a 9-3 opening round victory against Doane and blanked Dordt 4-0 in the winner’s bracket final. Morningside will take a 37-8 record and an eight-game winning streak into Saturday’s 2 p.m. title game, where it will face the winner of Saturday’s elimination bracket final between Dordt and Doane.
Rachel Henks was the winning pitcher in both triumphs to improve her record to 31-6 and close within two of the Morningside record of 33 wins in a season set by Whitney McElrath in 2006. Henks allowed four hits with three walks and six strikeouts against Doane and then twirled a three-hit shutout with one walk and four strikeouts against Dordt.
Morningside scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in its opening round win against Doane after the Tigers had tied the score at 3-3 in the top half of the inning. The Mustangs did all of the scoring with two outs and nobody on base. Mara Amsberry started the rally with a two-out double before Elin Landgren reached on error by the second baseman that paved the way to six unearned runs. Tracy Edwards walked to load the bases and Abby Conner was hit by a pitch to force in Amsberry with the go-ahead run. The big hits followed when Rachel Koch delivered a two-run single, Emilee Dorpinghaus doubled home a run and Allie Martinez singled in two more runs.
Doane grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a RBI single by Heather Ramirez, but it took the Mustangs only two batters in the bottom of the frame to snatch the lead away from the Tigers. Edwards led off the Mustangs’ first inning with a single to left field and Conner followed with a home run to center for a 2-1 lead.
The Mustangs increased their advantage to 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning when Koch stroked a one-out single to center field and came home on a double by Dorpinghaus.
After yielding the run scoring single to Ramirez, Henks settled in and retired the Tigers’ next 11 batters in a row until Jordan Van Roy homered to lead off the fifth inning and trim the Mustangs’ lead to 3-2.
The Tigers tied the score at three in the top of the sixth on a RBI single by Jordyn Stearns before the Mustangs put the game away with their six-run explosion in the bottom of the frame.
Koch went three-for-four with a double to pace an 11-hit Morningside offensive attack. The Mustangs also had multiple hit efforts from Dorpinghaus with a pair of doubles, Amsberry with a double and single and Martinez with a pair of singles.
Henks and Dordt pitcher Tianna Top traded zeros through the first four innings of the winner’s bracket before the Mustangs broke through with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Landgren led off the inning with a home run and Conner went deep for her second home run of the tournament one out later. Morningside pushed across one more run after two outs when Dorpinghaus singled to center, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came home on a single by Moriah Bohlmann.
The Mustangs had four of their eight hits against Top in the pivotal fifth inning.
Rachel Evavold relieved Top to start the sixth inning and the Mustangs touched her for a run when McKenzie Anderson singled, advanced to second on a single by Landgren and scored on a single by Conner.
Conner went three-for-three with a home run to lead an 11-hit Morningside offensive attack. Landgren had two hits with a home run and single and Bohlmann had two hits with a double and single.
Henks retired 13 of the Defenders’ final 14 batters of the game en route to her eighth shutout of the season.