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Titans Split A Pair Of Games To Conclude Arizona Trip

Natalie Dudek had a pair of hits and scored twice against University of St. Thomas (Minn.).
Natalie Dudek had a pair of hits and scored twice against University of St. Thomas (Minn.).

Kaitlyn Krol drove in three runs in both contests as UW-Oshkosh split a pair of games for the third consecutive day to conclude play Sunday (March 4) at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Leadoff Classic in Tucson, Ariz.

UW-Oshkosh (7-3), ranked 20th in the country by the NFCA, outlasted Wittenberg University (Ohio) by a 4-3 score in eight innings. University of St. Thomas (Minn.) pulled away for an 11-6 win over the Titans in the nightcap.

The NFCA Leadoff Classic featured 32 elite teams combining to play 96 games across three days, including 27 contests in which both teams were ranked in the NFCA top 25. Reigning Division III champion and top-ranked Virginia Wesleyan University (14-0) claimed the NFCA Leadoff Classic title with a 6-0 record.

Krol hit for the cycle in Sunday's games, collecting a single and a triple against Wittenberg University before registering a double and a home run against University of St. Thomas.

In the extra-inning triumph over Wittenberg University, the Titans responded to the Tigers' run in the top of the eighth with back-to-back run-scoring hits from Krol and Erika Berry with one out in the home half of the frame.

UW-Oshkosh took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Krol's two-out, two-run single that plated Abby Menting and Acacia Tupa.

Wittenberg University (1-4) cut its deficit to 2-1 with a double-steal of second base and home with two outs in the second inning. The Tigers then knotted the score at 2 on an RBI double by Cassidy Rowe with no outs in the top of the sixth frame.

Titans starting pitcher Claire Petrus preserved the tie by stranding Rowe at second base with a flyout, a lineout and a strikeout against the next three Tiger batters. Petrus also pitched around a leadoff single in the third inning and a leadoff triple in the fifth frame.

Wittenberg University started the eighth inning with Briana Gibson at second base under the international rule for extra innings. The Tigers sacrificed Gibson to third base, and Elise Freeland plated Gibson with the go-ahead run with one out.

Petrus escaped further damage by inducing a groundout and a notching a strikeout to end the Tigers' half of the eighth inning.

UW-Oshkosh's Kailee Garstecki was placed at second base to begin the bottom of the eighth inning. After Natalie Dudek popped up a bunt for the first out, Krol followed with a triple that scored Garstecki with the tying run. Berry then drove in Krol with the game-winning run as the Titans secured their third walk-off victory of the season.

Petrus improved her record to 5-0 on the year, limiting Wittenberg University to three runs (two earned) on seven hits in the complete-game effort. She walked one and struck out three.

Berry and Krol both went 2-for-4 to lead the Titans.

Freeland and Missy Lee had two hits apiece to pace the Tigers.

Abby Haab suffered the complete-game loss in the Wittenberg University pitcher's circle. She allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks in 7.1 innings pitched.

During the setback to University of St. Thomas, the Tommies reclaimed the lead for good at 7-4 with a five-run third inning.

UW-Oshkosh pulled within 7-6 in the top of the fifth frame, but University of St. Thomas added one insurance run in the home half of the fifth and three more runs in the sixth.

The Tommies outhit the Titans, 12-10, while UW-Oshkosh matched its season high with three errors that led to three unearned runs.

Elise Barnes, Sarah Bueno and Dana Connelly had two hits each for the Tommies. Berry, Dudek and Krol each collected three hits for the Titans.

UW-Oshkosh tied the score at 1 on a run-scoring single from Berry in the top of the second inning. The Titans claimed their lone lead of the contest at 4-2 on Krol's three-run homer in the third frame. The home run was Krol's first of the season and the sixth of her career.

University of St. Thomas' five-run third inning featured five hits, one walk and one UW-Oshkosh error. The Tommies, who took their final lead at 5-4 on a two-run single by Connelly, had six consecutive baserunners to open the fateful third frame.

UW-Oshkosh pulled within 7-5 following a leadoff home run by Carly Szada in the fifth inning. The Titans loaded the bases with one out after Szada's first career homer. Amanda McIlhany delivered a single to cut the UW-Oshkosh deficit to 7-6, but Tommies pitcher Sammy Hogan preserved her team's lead by retiring the next two Titan batters.

Hogan was credited with the win, scattering 10 hits and allowing six runs in 6.2 innings pitched. She walked three and struck out one while yielding two home runs.

Krol (0-1) was charged with her first career pitching loss after surrendering seven runs (five earned) on six hits and one walk in two-plus innings pitched.

UW-Oshkosh finished the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic with a 3-3 record. The Titans defeated 18th-ranked Messiah College (Pa.), 10-5, on Friday (March 2) and DePauw University (Ind.), 12-3 in five innings, on Saturday (March 3). UW-Oshkosh suffered setbacks to 22nd-ranked George Fox University (Ore.) on Friday and 24th-ranked Babson College (Mass.) on Saturday by scores of 10-2 and 15-5, respectively.

The Titans are off until embarking on a 10-game, six-day trip to Clermont, Fla., from March 18-23. UW-Oshkosh opens its Sunshine State schedule against Clarkson (N.Y.) and Worcester State (Mass.) universities on March 18.