Pitching, defense pushes Tommies past Scots

Pitcher Kendra Bowe combined for 12 strikeouts, one hit and one run allowed in nine innings of work Wednesday as the St. Thomas softball team swept a doubleheader against Macalester with 6-1 and 8-0 victories at South Campus Field.

After losing its first MIAC game since 2012 against St. Ben’s on Sunday, St. Thomas (21-5, 9-1) has rattled off five consecutive victories with a win over St. Ben’s and sweeps of Hamline and Macalester (15-9, 5-3). Bowe said the loss has motivated the team to get better and stay sharp every day of the season.

“Ultimately, it’s May that matters, and we still need to be getting better every single day no matter whether it’s a game or practice. We just need to get better,” Bowe said. “This year, it’s really been shown that literally any team can beat us. You have to show up every single day, and we cannot underestimate any team.”

Though Macalester finished just 5-15 in the MIAC last season, it entered Wednesday’s series with a 5-1 conference record with sweeps against St. Ben’s and Augsburg. Coach John Tschida said his team needed to stay focused to win a pair of close games.

“(Macalester is) pretty dangerous. They have several good hitters, and if you don’t hit your spots, they’re going to hit it out. So, I think they’re better than people realize,” Tschida said. “Some of the teams in our league, they may not be nine-strong, but they are six-strong. And if the bottom of the order gets on and now you have to face the good part of the lineup, they can put up four runs in a hurry.”

St. Thomas was sharp from the start, with Bowe retiring the first 10 consecutive batters she faced and totalling eight strikeouts in her first four innings pitching.

The Tommies threatened to score in both the first and second innings before breaking through with four runs in the third inning. The rally was finally capped off when pinch hitter Tisa Phinney batted an RBI single to score McKenzie Wergin for the fourth run of the inning.

The Scots answered with one run in the fifth inning, but that was all they would get. Pitcher Katie Jo Delisle came in to relieve Bowe to start the sixth inning, and her and the Tommie defense retired the next six consecutive Scot batters to end the game.

Designated hitter Brenna Walek added a two-run home run in the sixth inning for her MIAC-leading 10th home run of the year to make it a 6-1 final score.

“Our pitchers were great for us today, and our defense played really well, so that was huge for us today,” third baseman Brooke Selisker said.

In the second game of the series, St. Thomas took an early lead when shortstop Jenna Hoffman stole third base, then ran home after a throwing error charged to Macalester catcher Nikki Caicedo.

St. Thomas would need just one run to win as the Tommie defense played shutout ball for the rest of the game.

Though Hoffman hit a solo home run in the third inning, a majority of the Tommies’ runs came from their ability to manufacture runs.

“We had great bunts laid down at the right times, we took advantage of baserunning, we were smarter on the bases and smarter on defense,” Selisker said.

Tschida said the ability to play small ball and create runs is something they work on every day.

“When you have a good hitting team you’ll go to the national tournament where you’ll face the All-American pitchers, and your offense probably isn’t going to put up 20 runs, so it becomes more about manufacturing runs,” Tschida said. “For all the years we’ve coached, we’ve realized that you can have good hitting teams, but good hitting gets nullified at the end, so you better manufacture runs.”

St. Thomas now holds a 9-1 conference record and will travel to Gustavus on Saturday to play its fourth doubleheader in six days.

Jacob Sevening can be reached at seve8586@stthomas.edu.