Facing elimination in their second contest of the day, the IWU Wildcats responded accordingly on Tuesday evening in their rematch with Central Baptist College.
Behind a solid pitching performance from Addie Benham, together with some vital hits late in the contest, the Wildcats staved off elimination with a 5-2 triumph over the Mustangs.
After pitching well in relief in their first game with Oregon Tech, Benham was even better against Central Baptist. The sophomore hurler pitched a complete game, allowing seven hits and only two earned runs while striking out three.
“Addie, all through the year, has given us big innings, but today, she had neutralizing stuff on the mound,” IWU Head Coach Steve Babinski said. “I don’t know if anyone wanted to face her today.”
While IWU never trailed in the contest, they struggled to record hits with runners in scoring position in the first five innings, leaving seven runners on base.
Many times, those stranded runners can haunt a team in a game’s later stages. But in the sixth and seventh innings, the Wildcats took advantage of their scoring opportunities, plating three crucial runs in the final two frames.
“I was worried after the first inning. We had runners on second and third with less than two outs and didn’t produce,” Babinski said. “I thought was possibly a momentum shift that might linger for a while, but what I loved is that the pressure was on virtually every inning. We were just biding our time for a couple of heroes.”
With two outs in the third, Mackenzie Brown and Rebecca Schrad hit back-to-back RBI singles, scoring Kira Madl and Benham for a 2-0 advantage.
The Mustangs cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth. Kaylee St. John reached first on a two-out walk, and Brianna Nunn roped a triple to right field, scoring St. John from first base.
In the sixth, the Wildcats responded with two of their biggest runs of the 2019 campaign. Victoria Boyer scored from first base on a Central Baptist throwing error, and Trinity Medina followed with an RBI single of her own, plating Sydney Lowe and giving the Wildcats a 4-1 lead.
With the contest already in hand, Miranda Wehrle provided a little more insurance in the top of the seventh, hitting her 15th home run of the season over the center field fence and providing IWU with a four-run cushion.
“I really loved our girl’s execution and strategy,” Babinski said. “That was the difference. Our strategy was sound this morning, but the execution was poor. Here, the strategy was sound. The conviction was there, and the execution was there. We didn’t always produce, but we put ourselves in a position to succeed.”
The Mustangs were able to get one run back in the bottom half of the inning, but Benham and the Wildcats shut the door, punching their ticket to the championship bracket – and a rematch with the Oregon Tech Owls.
Medina finished 2-for-3 from the leadoff spot, while Wehrle, Brown, Schrad, and Boyer each recorded one hit for the Wildcats.
With a chance to return to the NAIA World Series, the Wildcats are going to have to defeat one of the top softball teams in the country – twice.
And to do so, Babinski knows that his team is going to have to play their best softball of the year.
“We have to be 3-for-3 – pitching, defense, and offense,” Babinski said. “I felt like earlier today, pitching and defense was there, but offense wasn’t. You cannot win at this level, and this moment, without going 3-for-3.”