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Cougars secure second seed for tournament

The University of Minnesota, Morris softball team nearly finished the season with a clean sweep of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Crossover. The Cougars defeated Northwestern, Crown, and Northland, but fell to the No. 1 team in the conference, St. Scholastica.

Morris finishes the regular season with a 14-7 UMAC record and enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed for the second straight year.

The Cougars will now move on to the UMAC Tournament this weekend and will open up with third seeded Northwestern. The tourney starts Friday, May 4 in Duluth, with the Cougars and Eagles playing the first game at 10 a.m.

UM-Morris 8

Northwestern 7

The Cougars defeated Northwestern 8-7 on Friday, April 27.

The Cougars held a 6-1 lead heading into the sixth, and had been in charge all game. The Eagles completely erased the deficit and took their first lead with six runs in the inning, taking a 7-6 lead with just one-and-a-half left to play.

In the sixth, the Cougars were up to the challenge, as Kelsey Draper drove home the game-tying and game-winning runs with her two-RBI double to right.

Mariah Essig won for the 10th time this season, including the eighth time in her last nine starts.

UM-Morris 10

Crown 1

Later on Friday, the Cougars defeated crown in five innings, 10-1.

There were no such dramatics against Crown, as the Cougars took a 2-1 lead after the first and never looked back. Morris added three runs in the third, and five on just three hits in the fourth.

Kelli Hamilton pitched the complete game, allowing just five hits, while striking out four. After allowing the lone first-inning run, she shut out the Storm for the final four innings.

Molly Olson saw her hitting streak continue, running to 23 straight games, as she went 5-for-7 on the day, moving above the .500 mark on the year.

Jordan Iverson was nearly as impressive, finishing 4-for-6 in the two games with four runs scored and her fifth homerun of the year, staying among the UMAC leaders.

UM-Morris 9

Northland 5

The Cougars defeated Northland on Saturday, putting a scoring rally through the middle-innings to take a 9-5 win from Northland.

The Cougars went up 2-0 after the third, and extended it to 7-0 after the top of the fourth. The LumberJills got five runs back in the fourth, but UMM answered with one each in the fifth and sixth to keep its distance.

Essig allowed just six hits to earn her 11th win of the season, striking out three, while walking just four.

St. Scholastica 5

UM-Morris 4

The Cougars fell 5-4 to St. Scholastica on a walk-off homerun in the seventh.

Morris took a 4-1 lead on St. Scholastica in the top of the sixth, needing just six outs to hand the league-leaders just their second loss of the season.

The Saints came back to tie it with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, getting an RBI single, double and triple to head to the seventh all knotted up at 4-4. In the top half of the inning, the Cougars went quietly with three straight strikeouts, leaving the Saints with one last chance with their leader, Bonnie Kowalczyk coming to the plate.

Kowalczyk wasted little time in giving her squad the win, smashing a homerun over the fence in right center for the walkoff 5-4 win.

Olson notched two hits in each game and wraps up the year with hits in 25 consecutive games. She went 4-for-8 on the day with three doubles and two runs scored.

Laura Lhotka went 3-for-6 over the two games, while Natasha Wiebold also finished with multiple hits.