MARION, Ind. - For the fourth consecutive season, the Marian University softball team earned a berth in the championship game of the Mid-Central College Conference Tournament and, for the third straight season, saw their hopes of earning the MCC's automatic bid to the NAIA Softball National Championship tournament dashed.
The Knights won their first two games on Wednesday to earn a berth in the MCC Tournament winner's bracket semifinal. Fourth-seeded MU had to take on No. 2-seeded Indiana Wesleyan University at 10 a.m. on Thursday for a berth in the title game. The Wildcats earned a 6-0 win to send MU to the loser's bracket where they would have to win two games and a third on Friday to win the tournament title.
MU took on No. 8-seeded Taylor University in the loser's bracket semifinal after the Trojans upset and eliminated top-seeded Bethel College, 3-2. The Knights pounded out 12 hits over five innings and earned a 13-4 win to set up a rematch in what they hoped would be the first of two title-deciding games.
Although the Trojans were riding the high of upsetting the Pilots, the Knights opened up on Taylor from the start of the evening game. Sophomore Michelle Marcum
and Ayres drove in runs in the first inning as MU posted three in the first to give junior Amy Tamer
a 3-0 lead. They added another in the third when freshman Heather Overla
scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
Gwaltney made it 7-0 with one swing in the fourth when she hit her sixth home run of the season, a three-run shot, to set a new career record for home runs. She now has 36 home runs in her three seasons at MU and broke the record of 35 set by Mallory Ortwein from 2008 through 2011.
Taylor got two back in the bottom of the fourth to make it 7-2, but MU unloaded in the fifth with six runs to put the game out of reach. Uebelhor led off the inning with a single and Rogers hit a two-run home run, her 11th of the year, to make it 9-2. Sophomore Kristen Tragesser
was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score a run before freshman Becca Twining
ripped a two-run double to make it 12-2. An RBI-ground out by sophomore Taylor Roach
made it 13-2 and virtually sealed the win.
The Trojans scored a pair in the bottom of the seventh, but Tamer closed out her 13th victory of the season. She threw a complete game, allowed three earned runs on four hits and struck out one to move to 13-6 on the year and sent MU to the title matchup.
The Knights would have to defeat IWU twice to get that elusive bid. However, the Wildcats did not accommodate as they earned a 7-3 win over the Knights to earn the automatic bid and end the Knights' campaign.
MU got on the board first in the title game when Marcum hit an RBI-single to make it 1-0. Gwaltney seemed to have it on cruise control in the circle as she allowed one baserunner over the first two innings. IWU would take the lead in the third, however, with a two-run double and an RBI-single to make it 3-1. MU went in order in each of the next three innings as IWU added to the lead with three in the fifth and one in the sixth to make it 7-1.
The Knights would not go down without a fight as they scored a pair in the bottom of the seventh, but IWU pitcher Abbie Forman slammed the door and earned IWU the title as she hung on for the 7-3 win.
Gwaltney closed the season with a 19-6 record in the circle and Uebelhor led the way on offense after she went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Marcum added a hit and an RBI, while sophomore Allie Foley
and Twining each added a hit for the Knights as they were held to just six hits.
It was the fourth consecutive season that the Knights had earned a berth in the MCC Tournament title game and the third straight in which they suffered defeat. In 2009, the Knights won the tournament but dropped a best-of-three play-in series for the NAIA bid. In 2010, the Knights won the regular season, fell in the tournament and were just one spot short of an at-large bid to the NAIA tournament.
The Knights closed the 2012 season with its fifth straight season with 30 wins or more as they finished 36-14 and 11-7 in the MCC. They had three honored as all-conference selections, Rogers, Gwaltney and Marcum, and had senior Kelsey Uebelhor
and sophomore Allie Foley
honored as CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team selections. Four Knights will also be named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes during the national tournament.