MSU's Season Comes to a Close

Stephanie Needham lined a home run over the left-field fence in the bottom of the first inning to key No. 1 Alabama-Huntsville to a 2-0 win over No. 5 Midwestern State in the semifinal round of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship at the Moyer Sports Complex.

"I threw three changeups to her," MSU starting pitcher Kristina Gutierrez said. "One of them was on the ground and then the other two were on the spot and she saw it coming. She did what she had to do and put the ball over the fence."

The Mustangs had dodged a bullet just one batter earlier as MSU left fielder Nicki Duff's leaping grab at the fence robbed UAH's Krystal Johnson of a home run.

The Chargers, who tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning, move on to the winner take all national final against California-San Diego Monday morning at the Moyer Sports Complex. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. (Central Time).

The Mustangs were unable to get the bats going against Alabama-Huntsville starter Whitney Toler, who improved to 21-2 by allowing three hits and notching four strikeouts in five innings. Alex Lewis pitched the final two innings to earn her 15th save of the season.

Midwestern State finishes the season with an impressive 54-14 mark to match its Lone Star Conference single season wins highwater mark. The Mustangs senior quintet of Gutierrez, Brittney Tanner, Alyson Reynolds, Amanda Potysman and McKenzie Sickler led the team to an NCAA all-division high of 108 victories over the past two seasons.

"I'm very proud of our seniors," MSU coach Brady Tigert said. "They are the ones that got us here. You can ask for more wins, but you can't ask for better kids."

Gutierrez limited the Chargers to just two hits over the first three innings of the game before Tanner came to pitch the final three innings.

"It sucks now," Tanner said. "But in a few month, I will be thankful that we got here. It's been a journey that I will never forget."

MSU's one-two punch of Tanner and Gutierrez combined for 27 shutouts including consecutive blankings of Indiana (Pa.) and Minnesota State Saturday to give the Mustangs another shot at UAH, who the dropped a close 3-2 contest in the tournament's opening round.

"If you don't have these two, you're not here," Tigert said. "These two are fighters and they were made at me half of the time, but that's what makes them so good. You can't ask for anything better."

The Mustangs managed singles by Elena Bennett in the first inning, Potysman in the second inning and Courtney Bingham in the fourth.

Midwestern State reached its highest national ranking this season reaching No. 2 for three consecutive weeks and won eight of the 10 tournaments it played including a regional and super regional championship.

"Most people don't realize how hard it is to even get here," Tigert said. "Everything hast to be just right. You have to be a great team and fight through battles and fight through injuries and do whatever it takes. We did that. You can't say enough about how special this year was and how special this team is."