UW-Eau Claire softball’s Katie Rongstad’s RBI double to left field in the fifth inning proved to be the difference maker as the No. 25 Blugolds opened NCAA tournament play on Thursday with a 2-1 victory against Wartburg College.
Rongstad knocked home both runs for UWEC, which advanced to the winners bracket of the double-elimination first round. The Blugolds will meet the host St. Thomas Tommies today at noon.
Wartburg notched the first run of the game in the first inning when Leah Campos earned a bases-loaded walk. UW-Eau Claire answered quickly in the bottom of the inning when Rongstad got Mikayla McEnery home on a sacrifice fly.
Rongstad’s eventual game-winning hit came with Allison Schultz on second after she came in to pinch run and stole a base.
Cheyenne Johnson started in the circle for the Blugolds, earning the win after allowing one run, three hits and three walks in four innings of work. She moved to 8-3 while striking out four.
Sarah Peka allowed just one hit and struck out four in three innings of work. She earned three straight outs in the seventh for her first save of the season.
The Knights, ranked second in Division III in stolen bases, mustered just one against the Blugolds.
St. Thomas (39-5) earned a date with the Blugolds with a dominant 9-0 victory against Northwestern-St. Paul, its 24th win in its last 25 games. Tommies pitcher Kierstin Anderson-Glass has held opponents off the board for 35 consecutive innings. The junior retired the first 13 batters she faced.
These two squads met once in the regular season, with St. Thomas winning 4-3 on March 23 in Clermont, Fla. UW-Eau Claire led twice in the game, including a 2-0 advantage after one inning, but was unable to hold on. Three Blugold errors accounted for three of the Tommies’ runs.
UW-Eau Claire 2, Wartburg 1
Wartburg 100 000 0 — 1 4 2
Eau Claire 100 010 x — 2 6 1
WP: Cheyenne Johnson (4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K). LP: Maddie Rog (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K). Leading hitters — Wartburg: Grace Petersen 2-2, Leah Campos (RBI). UW-Eau Claire: Katie Rongstad 1-2 (2 RBI, 2B), Cheyenne Johnson 2-2. Records: Wartburg 26-11; UW-Eau Claire 27-11-1.