Greeley, Colo. -- The Loyola Marymount softball team (31-24-1) earned a 7-1 victory over South Dakota State (37-18) on Friday afternoon to become the NISC Northern Colorado Regional Champions and advance to the tournament's National Championship round next week. The two teams faced off earlier in the day as well, with SDSU picking up the necessary win in Game 1, which was an elimination game for the Jackrabbits.
Hannah Bandimere started strong in Game 2 for LMU, notching three strikeouts in the first inning to set a strong defensive tone for the Lions.
Alicia Brown, who was named the regional's Most Valuable Player, put the Lions up 1-0 with a solo shot to left center field in the top of the second and then struck again in the top of the fourth, sending an RBI single up the middle as Delanie Wisz rounded home from second on the play to give LMU a 2-0 lead.
South Dakota State scored their lone run of the game in the bottom of the fourth as their batter reached on an error, moving the score to 2-1. Neither team scored in the fifth, but LMU secured two more runs in the sixth. Molly Grumbo got on base first for the Lions in the inning with a single to center, followed by another single by Wisz to advance Grumbo to second.
After a strikeout by Andrea Gonzalez, Brown came up clutch once again, hitting a hard single to right center to score Grumbo and advance Wisz to third. Brooke Christensen followed suit and hit a single of her own on the next at-bat to score Wisz and move Brown to third, and the Lions ended the inning with a 4-1 lead.
LMU got back on offense quickly after a beautiful diving catch by Sabrina Tebou in center field for their first out of sixth and swift double-play from Lindsey Matoi at shortstop to Maddison Flores at second base to Wisz at first to get the Lions back up to bat.
Loyola Marymount capitalized on its positive momentum and scored three more runs in the final inning to extend its lead to 7-1. The Lions' final rally was sparked by another single by Grumbo and then a double by Wisz to move Grumbo to third and put them both in scoring position. Gonzalez secured a perfect sacrifice bunt on the next at-bat, driving home Grumbo to make it 5-1.
With Wisz on third, Brown smashed her second home run of the game to left field to score LMU's final two runs of the game as they went up 7-1.
Bandimere finished with four strikeouts in six innings pitched, as she moved to 22-11 on the season. The junior pitcher has now thrown over 200 innings this season, currently standing at 205.2.
Freshman Linnay Wilson came in to finish it out for the Lions with runners on first and second for SDSU, getting a fly out and two strikeouts to secure LMU's regional championship victory. The Jackrabbits got off to a strong start right away in Game 1 this morning, scoring five first-inning runs while nailing two homers to take a commanding 5-0 lead. The Lions made a pitching adjustment, entering Wilson into the circle for starter Bandimere.
LMU gained momentum in the second, starting to chip away at the Jackrabbits' lead. Wisz got things in order for the Lions, slamming a double to left field, which was followed by another double by Andrea Gonzalez to drive Wisz home and get LMU on the board. Brooke Christensen brought Gonzalez home with an RBI bunt single to make it 5-2 at the end of inning two.
South Dakota State got one more in the third on a full-count walk with the bases loaded, but the Lions continued their hot streak in the bottom of the inning. Grumbo began the three-run inning with a double and advanced to third on the throw. Wisz crushed a two-run homer next to score herself and Grumbo and cut the Jackrabbits' lead to 6-4. Gonzalez stepped up and hit LMU's second straight home run on the next at-bat, bringing the Lions within one, now down just 6-5.
The rest of the game was all defense, as neither team scored a run in the final four innings, and South Dakota State held on to their 6-5 lead to earn the victory.
Wilson finished Game 1 with eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched, allowing just one earned run in the loss.
As mentioned previously, Brown was named the NISC regional MVP after finishing the weekend with a slugging percentage of 1.167 and batting average of .583 with seven hits including two home runs and a team-high seven RBI while scoring four runs.
Christensen, Tebou, Wilson and Wisz were all named to the NISC All-Regional Team after their stellar performances on the weekend. Christensen had three hits with one home run and three RBI in the regional while making several clutch defensive plays.
Tebou also stood out on the defensive end while nailing a grand slam in LMU's comeback victory to open the NISC. She finished the weekend with four hits and five RBI.
Wilson racked up an impressive 18 strikeouts in just 12.0 innings pitched over LMU's four games while allowing just six hits and two earned runs to finish with an NISC regional ERA of 1.17.
Wisz went 9-for-12 at the plate in the regional and had team highs in batting average (.750), slugging percentage (1.667), hits (9), runs scored (8) and home runs (3) in the postseason tournament. She now has a team-high 11 home runs on the season.
The Lions will continue postseason play next week as they participate in the National Championship round of the NISC. The host school has not yet been determined.
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