Rio Grande Sports Information
VIENNA, W.Va. - For the University of Rio Grande softball team, the River States Conference tournament ended the same way that the regular season did - with a title.
The top-seeded RedStorm rebounded from a loss to third-seeded Indiana University Southeast in the championship first final - not to mention an early deficit in the winner-take-all second final - to defeat the Grenadiers, 5-3, in the championship game of the double-elimination tourney, Saturday afternoon, at Jackson Memorial Park.
Rio Grande, which began the day with a 7-0 win over IUS in the winner's bracket final before dropping a 5-1 decision to the Grenadiers in the first championship game, improved to 45-8 with the victory.
Head coach Chris Hammond's squad now waits to learn the identity of its first round opponent in the upcoming NAIA National Tournament. The tourney pairings will be announced on Wednesday.
IU Southeast, which closed the tournament at 28-21, also earned a spot in the national tournament as the RSC tourney runner-up as a result of Rio Grande capturing both of the league's automatic bids as the regular season and tourney champions.
The Grenadiers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Justice Kline led off with a walk and eventually scored on a two-out wild pitch by Rio sophomore starter Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH).
The RedStorm tied the game in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Conkey - her fifth longball of the tourney and 12th of the season and then took the lead for good in the third inning thanks to an RBI single by junior Tayler Arndt (Clyde, OH) and a bases loaded walk to sophomore MacKenzie Nichols (Columbus, OH).
Arndt added another run-scoring single in the fourth and junior Gabby Gregg (Ashville, OH) tacked on an RBI hit in the fifth to make it 5-1, but IUS sliced the deficit to 5-3 on a one-out home run by Sydney Seger in the sixth.
Conkey rebounded, though, to record the final two outs of the sixth and got the final two outs in the seventh after Clara Shean had reached on a single to seal the win.
Freshman Michaela Criner (Lancaster, OH) went 4-for-4 and scored twice in the win, while Arndt and Conkey finished with two hits each.
Conkey allowed four hits and two walks while striking out five in a complete game effort. The win was her 21st in 22 decisions this season.
Emily Hollis had two of the four hits for IU Southeast, while Emily Weiss started and took the loss for the Grenadiers.
IUS forced the second final by virtue of a 5-1 in the first title game. The Grenadiers scored once in the second inning to take the lead and added four more markers in the fourth.
Rio avoided a shutout in the seventh inning when senior Cheyenne Hamaker (Hilliard, OH) led off with a double and scored on a two-out hit by senior Alex Stevens (Oak Hill, OH).
Becca Schoenung earned her fifth win in six decisions for the Grenadiers, scattering eight hits and a walk in a complete game effort.
Senior Jenna Jones (Lancaster, OH) started and took the loss for the RedStorm, snapping a personal 12-game winning streak. She allowed seven hits and five runs - four earned - while walking one and fanning two over 4-1/3 innings.
Stevens, Arndt and Hamaker all had two hits in the loss for Rio Grande.
Kline went 3-for-3, while Hollis had two hits for the Grenadiers.
The first of the three meetings on the day saw Rio Grande strike for four runs in the first inning and never look back.
Conkey tossed a two-hitter and struck out six en route to the shutout, while helping her own cause with a home run, a double and three RBI.
Arndt had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in a run, while Criner went 2-for-4 and Hamaker had a double and a run batted in.
Weiss started and lasted just two-thirds of an inning, allowing three hits, two walks and four runs.