The softball team (36-27, 17-10) claimed the 2019 National Invitational Softball Championship after a walk-off 4-3 victory over Iowa State University on Sunday at the Triple Crown Sports Complex in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“We were just elated at the end of the game,” head coach Peejay Brun said. “There’s that slight feeling of disbelief when you work so hard for something that you’ve not only made it, but you won the whole thing.”
Iowa State opened the championship game on a fast note as they put two runners on base off three pitches. A sacrifice bunt and two hits from senior infielder Sydney Stites and senior catcher Sally Woolpert gave the Cyclones a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
UTA responded in the bottom of the frame after junior infielder Whitney Walton scored off a single to right center field from junior infielder Aileen Garcia.
Sophomore pitcher Randi Phillips, who pitched 4.1 innings in Sunday’s game, held off the Iowa State offense by retiring nine straight batters. The pitching performance gave the Mavericks an opportunity to get back in the game in the bottom of the fourth.
Senior outfielder Bri Burchianti scored off a throwing error at second base, tying the game at 2-2. A few plays later, senior outfielder Laura Curry hit a squeeze bunt, allowing Walton to score and give UTA a 3-2 lead.
Iowa State tied the game up at 3-3 in the top of the fifth after an errant throw allowed sophomore outfielder Skyler Ramos to score.
Freshman pitcher Allie Gardiner, who came in to relieve Phillips, would hold the Cyclones scoreless for the rest of the game.
Garcia would seal the game in walk-off fashion after she hit a line drive to the right side of the infield, scoring senior outfielder Krista Rude.
Phillips, Curry and junior outfielder Melanie Mendoza were named to the All-Tournament Team while Garcia was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The postseason win was a special way for the team's five seniors to finish the season, Brun said. The championship is something they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
“They’re a very unselfish class, and for us to be able to give them a championship at the end, it means the world to me because I always want seniors to end on a great note,” she said.
Brun also said she was proud of the way her team was resilient throughout the season.
“Winning a championship in the end is great, but I think we were so much more successful than just the wins and losses,” Brun said.