It was a glorious week for the Case Western softball team at the University Athletic Association Championship, as the team captured a share of its first championship in the tournament since 1999. The team finished the tournament with a 5-3 record, earning a three way split for the championship with Emory University and Washington University in St. Louis. For the season, the Spartans now sit at 10-6 overall.
The team caught fire to begin the tournament, winning the first four games. Unsurprisingly, the winning streak coincided with a dominant stretch by the pitching staff which surrendered two runs in the team’s first three games. A 3-0 shutout of Rochester University in the third game highlighted the Spartans’ masterful pitching. Pitcher Annie Wennerberg stood out during the hot streak, securing victories in each of the team’s first three games and surrendering a mere two runs in 15 innings over that span.
The Spartans’ most thrilling victory of the tournament, however, came in a rather high scoring affair against Emory. It was the fourth game for the Spartans, who looked to preserve their perfect record to that point in tournament play. However, Emory, which entered the tournament as the four time defending champion, appeared poised to deny the Spartans a fourth consecutive victory, building up a 5-0 lead when the Spartans came up to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning. The team began a rally almost immediately; outfielder Ashley Parello launched a two run home run with no outs in the inning, followed by another two run blast off the bat of second baseman Molly O’Brien. In the blink of an eye, the Spartans had cut the deficit to a single run. An inning later Parello stepped up to the plate once again with a runner on base and launched her second home run of the day to complete the Spartans’ rally, putting them in front 6-5. Closer Rebecca Taylor came on in the seventh and retired all three batters she faced to close out Emory and cap a thrilling victory. With the comeback, the Spartans remained perfect in tournament play at 4-0.
Unfortunately, the perfect record would not last. In their fifth game of the tournament the Spartans committed two crucial errors in the field and squandered an early 8-1 lead against Brandeis University. Ultimately, the team fell by a final score of 12-11 in 10 innings despite a second straight two home run game by Parello. The sixth game saw them fall just short against Wash U, putting their title hopes in doubt. Just as the Spartans appeared to be in trouble it was Wennerburg to the rescue as she pitched them to victory over Rochester, going the distance while giving up just one run. The victory ensured the team at least a share of the UAA championship. The Spartans had an opportunity to clinch sole possession of first place in the championship with a victory over Emory in their final game, but suffered a walk off loss after rallying from a 4-1 deficit. Regardless, the Spartans were UAA champions for the first time in 15 years and nobody could take that away from them.
The newly minted champions will be back in action on Friday at Geneva College in Pennsylvania for a doubleheader. On Sunday the Spartans will be back in town for their home opener, a doubleheader against Trine University. Until then, they can party like it’s 1999!