The right arm of Brittney Tanner has carried Midwestern State a long way this season.
But it took also took her legs in Saturday night's 1-0 elimination game win over No. 14 Minnesota State in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship at the Moyer Sports Complex.
"What a great game," MSU coach Brady Tigert said. "We had to play perfectly to win it because it was a barn burner and we came through. Brittney was phenomenal today."
Tanner was her normal self while notching her Lone Star Conference record tying 14th shutout of the season. The senior from Burkburnett allowed just two hits - singles in the fourth and sixth innings - and didn't allow a runner past second base. She improved to 31-9 on the season while notching nine strikeouts and no walks.
But it was Tanner's speed that kept the Mustangs alive in the top of the seventh.
The senior beat Minnesota State shortstop Abby Sonner's throw for an infield single to send Kim Jerrick, who had reached on a fielder's choice, into scoring position at second base.
"I knew this was do or die, so when I hit the ball I just knew I just had to duck my head and take off as hard as I could and make something happen to give Reynolds a bat behind me to try to score a run," Tanner said. "I told them all I need is one run. She stepped up as a senior and got that hit."
And Reynolds finally got a bead on Minnesota State starting pitcher Courtney McKelvogue, who kept the Mustangs off base for the opening three innings. She finished the game allowing five hits and two strikeouts keeping MSU off balance with a plus changeup.
"She had been throwing outside all game and I knew I'd get a changeup one of those times," Reynolds sad. "I saw it coming in and knew I had to attack it and get my barrel on it and drive it somewhere."
So ripped the curve ball on the outside corner into right field allowing Jerrick to carry the winning run across the plate.
The Mustangs matched their own single season LSC wins mark by improve to 54-13 and advance to face No. 1 Alabama-Huntsville in the national semifinal Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. (Central Time). With a win, MSU forces the if necessary game later in the afternoon.
Two wins would propel the Mustangs into the national title game Monday against either California-San Diego or Saginaw Valley State. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. (Central Time).
Midwestern State's Kristina Gutierrez weaved her 13th shutout of the season to lead No. 5 Midwestern State to a 3-0 win over No. 11 Indiana (Pa.) in an elimination game Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division II Softball Championships at the Moyer Sports Complex.
"I'm very proud of Kristina in so many ways especially in her maturity level and her work ethic," MSU coach Brady Tigert said. "I can't say enough about what she's done for our team and our program."
Gutierrez improved to 23-4 allowing just two hits - both to Kristen Tunno - notching seven strikeouts while walking just one.
"My curve ball and my knuckle (ball) was working very well," Gutierrez said. "We stuck with it and even went with the curve ball to the lefties and I got 'em."
The Mustangs had to work out of one major jam when Tunno ripped a one-out double down the left-field line and moved to third on a throwing error, but Gutierrez fanned Michelle Bivona and induced Mary Ward to fly out to center field to end the threat.
Midwestern broke through with a run in the fourth inning as Kim Jerrick was hit by a pitch, Courtney Bingham singled to left center and Alyson Reynolds singled off of Indiana (Pa.) shortstop Marissa Leslie's glove to load the bases.
The Mustangs pushed the run across the plate in Amanda Potysman's sacrifice fly down the left field line to forge a 1-0 lead.
MSU tacked on a pair of runs in the fifth inning as Nicki Duff scored on Mallory Mooney's sacrifice fly to center field while Elena Bennett came plateward when an errant throw got away from the third baseman to push the lead to 3-0.