MARION, Ind. - The No. 4-seeded Marian University softball team moved into the semfinals of the 2012 Mid-Central College Conference Tournament after finishing the first day of the double-elimination tournament with back-to-back victories at Wildcat Field in Marion, Ind., on Wednesday afternoon.
The Knights defeated Saint Francis (Ind.) by a 6-2 score in the first round and sent top-seeded Bethel College to the loser's bracket with a 6-3 win in their second game of the day to set up a clash between the Knights and No. 2-seeded Indiana Wesleyan University for a berth in the MCC Tournament title game.
MU opened the tournament with the fifth-seeded Cougars and fell behind right away as USF posted an unearned run in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead. It took a couple of innings, but the Knights finally responded in the bottom of the third.
Senior Lizzee Campbell
led off with a single before she scored on a throwing error. Junior Emily Gwaltney
, who had a record-setting day, hit a line shot over the left field wall for a two-run home run to give MU a 3-1 lead after three innings. It was her fourth homer of the season and 34th of her career.
They added two more in the fourth after senior Jillian Ayres
led off with a double. She advanced on a fielding error and scored on a second error before freshman Chelsey Hartman
scored on a squeeze bunt by senior Kelsey Uebelhor
to make it 5-1 after four innings.
The Cougars scored one in the fifth, but freshman Becca Twining
sealed the win with a solo home run, her fourth of the season, in the bottom of the sixth to send the Knights to the 6-2 win.
Gwaltney improved to 18-4 on the season in the circle after she threw her 17th complete game of the season. She allowed just two unearned runs on six hits and struck out eight to tie the career wins record of 51.
She also went 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs to give her the career RBI record at Marian University. She broke the record of 141 set by Mallory Ortwein from 2008-11. Twining finished 1-for-3 with a home run and an RBI.
The day's second game was a classic showdown between the two powerhouses in the conference: Marian and Bethel. Bethel won the No. 1 seed with a perfect 18-0 season in MCC play and cruised to an 11-3 win in six innings over No. 8-seeded Taylor earlier in the day.
The matchup was a duel between two of the top hurlers in the conference in Gwaltney and BC's Natalie Newell. It did not disappoint.
Bethel got on the board first with a pair of runs in the top of the first, but the Knights immediately responded in the bottom half. Uebelhor hit an infield single and Rogers followed with a single to right to put two runners on and one out. Gwaltney delivered again as she hit a towering blast over the scoreboard in left field to give the Knights a 3-2 lead after an inning of play.
They added two more in the bottom of the third when Rogers hit a solo home run and Twining drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-2 after three innings. The Pilots made it interesting as they worked a run across in the fourth to make it 5-3, but that was it for the Pilots as Gwaltney settled in.
She did not allow a hit over the final three innings and Twining hit another solo shot in the bottom of the fifth to send MU to the 6-3 win.
Gwaltney threw her 18th complete game of the season in improving to 19-4 on the year. She allowed two earned runs on seven hits and struck out one to become the new career wins record holder. She is now 52-11 in her three seasons at MU. In addition, the three-run home run was her 35th career home run and brings her into a tie for the career record with Mallory Ortwein who hit 35 from 2008-11.
She finished 3-for-3 with her fifth homer of the season, three RBIs and a run scored. Rogers finished 2-for-4 with a home run, an RBI and two runs scored, while Twining finished 1-for-1 with two RBIs, two walks and a run scored.
The Knights (35-12) will take on No. 2-seeded Indiana Wesleyan University (42-11) at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Wildcat Field No. 1. The Knights and Wildcats split their MCC twinbill this season with MU taking a 7-3 win and suffering a 10-9 defeat in which they came back from an 8-0 deficit in the fifth inning.
The game will air LIVE
on the Knights Athletics Network and LIVE STATS will be available at www.muknights.com
beginning at 9:55 a.m.