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Luther Softball Wins IIAC Conference Championship

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Ashley Burrows (‘18) attempting to lay down a bunt.

Ashley Burrows (‘18) attempting to lay down a bunt.

Gillian Klein (‘20) | Chips

Gillian Klein (‘20) | Chips

Ashley Burrows (‘18) attempting to lay down a bunt.

Gillian Klein, Volunteer Writer

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Luther Softball hosted the IIAC Tournament Championships on May 5-6 and won the championship for the third year in a row with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.

The Norse defeated the Wartburg Knights in the semi-final 5-1, scoring four of the five runs in the fifth inning. Offensively, infielder Natalie Stockman (‘18) led the Norse with three runs batted in. Outfielder Ashley Burrows (‘18) and outfielder Sara Nelson (‘17) scored two of the five runs for the Norse in the fifth inning. Defensively, pitcher Samantha Bratland (‘19) allowed only one run on seven hits, walked two batters, and struck out a season best of 12 hitters. The semifinal win advanced Luther to the second day of tournament play against Central College.

In the tournament finals, the No. 3 Norse faced No. 10 Central College. The Norse won with a score of 4-3 in nine innings. Pitcher Anne Versnik (‘17) started the first two innings, allowing just two hits. The Norse then brought in Amanda Witzlib (‘17) who pitched five innings, allowing only two runs on eight hits. Bratland came in as the relief pitcher and ended up getting the win, allowing one run on three hits. The Norse were losing 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, but were able to load the bases before Anna Strien (‘18) tied the game on a sacrifice fly that scored pinch runner Lilly Johnson (‘20).  With runners on first and second base with one out, Stockman singled, scoring Burrows in a 4-3 walk-off victory for the Norse. With that win, the Norse became 2017 IIAC Conference Tournament Champions.

The team has shared many wins and losses together, but this season has been meaningful to many of the players, including Witzlib.

“This is a very special team with a great deal of depth,” Witzlib said. “We don’t focus too far ahead, just one game at a time. This has been the best senior year I could have asked for.”

According to Stockman, the Norse created a simple game plan for the tournament.

“Our goal always is to go out there and play our game,” Stockman said. “We worked hard all season for this and now we just have to go out there and execute.”

Witzlib also commented on the team’s mindset going into the games.

“We don’t focus too far ahead, just one game at a time,” Witzlib said. “Regardless of the outcome of this game, I am so grateful for the fantastic memories and successes we have had over my past three years here.”

At the end of the day, the Norse success was due to the team’s chemistry.

“This year we had a new group of girls on the field,” Stockman said. “We’ve learned how to adjust to each other and work together.”

Stockman commented on the high level of competition in the tournament.

“The IIAC is one of the toughest conferences in the Midwest,” Stockman said. “Every team has the ability to win on any given day.”

This is the third year in a row that the Norse have won the IIAC Tournament Championship, and it is the sixth title they have won in eight years. With this win, the Norse will advance to play in the NCAA III Regional May 12-14.

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