FAYETTE, Mo. -- The Bellevue University softball team, behind a strong outing from senior righty Taylor Mohler, rallied past Cardinal Stritch University 2-1 on Monday afternoon in the first game of the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round at the Cox Softball Complex, hosted by Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo.
Kristine Kimberley, making just her 38th plate appearance of her season, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to chase home the walk-off winning run for the Bruins. Sayde Woten led off the inning with BU trailing 1-0 by hustling out an infield single. Courtney Schendt followed by hitting a ground ball to third, after showing bunt, that the CSU third baseman fired into right field to put runners on the corners for BU. Alex Tooley was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
With pinch runners on both second and third base, Michaela Miller hit a bouncing ball to second base that the second baseman made a play on but rather than taking a sure out at first, threw back across her body to the plate. The throw was on target but not in time to get the speedy Kendall Hendrix sliding in from third with the game-tying run. That brought Kimberley to the plate and the first pitch she saw caught her in the side to force home the game-winning run. It was the first game-winning RBI of Kimberley's career.
Bellevue improves to 40-12-1 on the season while Cardinal Stritch dips to 43-11.
With their victory, Bellevue remains in the winner's bracket to play the winner of Central Methodist and Columbia College of Missouri tomorrow at noon.
With their loss, Cardinal Stritch drops into the loser's bracket where they will take on the loser of the Central Methodist-Columbia game tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.
Bellevue threatened to get on the board first. Ashley Gigax and Emily Gigax recorded back-to-back singles in the bottom of the first to put runners on first and second with just one out to bring up the clean-up hitter Woten. Woten drove a sinking liner to right that saw Gabi Palacios make a running catch to record the out and throw on to first to double up Emily Gigax and help CSU escape the inning unscathed.
Cardinal Stritch struck first in the fifth inning. Jill Andreoni worked a two-out walk to extend the inning to bring Katie Herberg to the plate. Herberg hit a shallow fly ball to center which fell into a Bermuda triangle between shortstop, left field, and center field with all three defensive players converging. The ball hung in the air long enough to allow Andreoni to build up steam and score from first on the play.
The Bruins had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom half of the fifth, putting a runner on second with two outs but Maddie Szalewski struck out Kaitlyn Goney to end the inning and preserve the Cardinal Stritch lead.
After a shutdown inning by Mohler BU came back to bat with a chance to tie. Shelby Kindelin lined a one-out single to center and stole second after Ashley Gigax struck out to give Bellevue just their third runner in scoring position of the game. Szalewski again averted any damage by striking out Emily Gigax to end the inning.
Mohler picked up the win in the circle for Bellevue to improve to 22-7 on the season. She worked all seven innings while allowing just one run on three hits and a walk while striking out eight on the afternoon.
Szalewski suffered the loss and falls to 14-5 on the year for Cardinal Stritch. She went six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and struck out eight.
Bellevue, who had won the only previous meeting between the two schools, an 8-0 triumph in Oskaloosa, Iowa on March 21, 2014, improves to 2-0 all-time against the Stritch Wolves.