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Morningside drops national tourney opener

Morningside drops national tourney opener

A six-hit shutout by ace pitcher Molli Morgan and one swing of the bat by Elisa Valenzuela lifted unranked Ottawa to a 1-0 upset victory against No. 10 Morningside in Monday’s first day play in the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Sioux City Bracket.

Ottawa, which was swept 5-1 and 5-0 by the Mustangs in a March 18 regular season doubleheader in Ottawa, Kan., won for the 21st time in its last 23 games and will take a 38-17 record into Tuesday’s 11 a.m. winner’s bracket final against No. 13 Reinhardt, which scored a come-from-behind 2-1 victory in eight innings against unranked Jamestown in Monday’s other first round contest.

Morningside (39-11) will try to stay alive in the double elimination tourney in a 1:30 p.m. game against Jamestown, which defeated the Mustangs 4-0 in a March 19 regular season game in Leavenworth, Kan.

Morgan, who absorbed the loss in both of the Braves’ regular season defeats against Morningside, pitched to contact against the Mustangs, finishing the contest with no walks and no strikeouts while improving her record to 31-12.

Ottawa, which entered the game with an all-time record of 0-7 in two prior NAIA National Championship appearances, received all the offense it needed when Valenzuela slugged a solo home run with two outs in the top of the first inning.

The solo home run was the only scoring the Braves could muster against Morningside ace Rachel Henks, who saw her record drop to 33-9 with the hard luck defeat. Henks allowed only one more hit after Valenzuela’s home run, which came when Aryn Smith doubled with two outs in the top of the seventh inning to end a streak where she had retired 11 consecutive hitters.

Henks finished with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Morningside had base runners in all but one inning, but had more than one hit in an inning only once. That came in the third inning when a strong throw by Ottawa leftfielder Kori Lacey snuffed out the Mustangs’ only significant scoring threat. Tracey Edwards, who had led off the inning with a single, was thrown out at the plate by Lacey when she attempted to score from second base on a two-out single by Emilee Dorpinghaus.

Aside from the two third inning hits, the Mustangs’ other hits were a pair of singles by Moriah Bohlmann and singles by Abby Conner and Rachel Koch.

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