SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - For the first time in program history, Southeastern softball has earned a berth in the NCAA National Finals after turning in a 5-4 victory over Augustana on Saturday afternoon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Savage Storm entered the Central Super-Regional as the lowest seed to advance to the final 16 in the country, but proceeded to sweep the Vikings on their home field, winning 13-12 on Friday before holding on for a 5-4 win on Saturday which improved their record to 43-18 on the season.
SE will make its first ever appearance in the NCAA Softball National Finals and will open its chase for a National Title at 6:30 p.m. on May 22 against Dixie State, which swept Cal State-Monterrey Bay to win the West Super-Regional.
The difference between Friday's game and Saturday's game was night and day.
Mindy McElroy got the start again on Saturday and this time recorded 5.1 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts.
Shayna Milam came on in relief for the second-straight game and provided a similar result, tossing 1.2 innings and allowing a run on three hits with two strikeouts, including the final out of the game, and picked up her eighth win of the year in the circle.
Offensively, Haley Strawn turned in a 3-for-4 outing, while Laramie Beal and Courtney Riddle each added a pair of hits.
Jessica Simmons, Sydney Kramer and Arianna Jones each added a hit as well.
Beal drove in a pair of runs which were the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, while Simmons, Riddle and Jones each drove in a run of their own.
The game got off to a somewhat ominous start with Caitlin Nichol opening the game for AC with a solo home run.
McElroy would regain her composure and retire the two, three and four hole hitters to leave the deficit at 1-0.
That deficit soon disappeared as Simmons lead off the Southeastern half of the first inning with a home run as well, her third of the season and second of the super-regional, knotting the game at 1-1.
It would remain tied at 1-1 through five-and-a-half innings.
But in the bottom of the sixth with one out, Kramer, Beal and Strawn would load the bases on three-straight singles which allowed Riddle to draw an RBI walk that put the Storm in front 2-1.
Jones then followed with a single up the middle to plate Kramer and mount a 3-1 lead.
That lead did not last long however, as Sarah Kennedy led off the top of the sixth inning with a solo homer to trim the lead to 3-2.
After retiring Janelle Troutmann, the Vikings loaded the bases with one out.
Milam then came on to pitch and the first batter she faced doubled to right-center field to plate one run, but Kramer quickly recovered the ball and Simmons relayed it to the plate in time for Conner Harmon to tag out what would be the go-ahead run and keep the score tied at 3-3.
Milam then followed by striking out Maddie Merriam to end the inning and leave the game tied at 3-3.
Lauren Renneker then opened the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk and was replaced on the base paths by Shaina Crites.
The next two batters were retired before Kramer drew a two-out walk to put runners at first and second.
That's when Beal clubbed a double to right-center that allowed both Crites and Kramer to score and put the Storm in front 5-3.
Milam would coax a pair of pop-outs to open the top of the seventh before the Vikings would get a solo home run from Kennedy to trim the advantage to 5-4.
AC would then get a walk from Troutmann and a double from Lindsay Spanton to leave runners at second and third, but Milam would strikeout Carly Peterson looking to end the game and preserve the 5-4 win.