Their journey to a second straight Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship took plenty of twists and turns. But the players and coaches on the Hillsdale College softball team wouldn't have it any other way.
Their 2019 season began with the uncertainty that comes with a coaching change, but ended with the euphoria of a title, as Hillsdale came from the No. 8 seed to win the 2019 G-MAC Softball Tournament championship thanks to a 5-2 victory over Cedarville University in North Canton, Ohio. The Chargers, 23-26 on the season, have earned an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional, to be held at a site yet to be determined.
The NCAA Division II regional selection show will be broadcast on NCAA.com at 10 a.m. Monday. This will be the third all-time appearance in the NCAA tournament for the program, adding to a list that includes 1991 and 2018.
First-year coach Kyle Gross pushed all the right buttons through this remarkable postseason run for his team, who is 8-0 all-time in G-MAC tournament play. He put together a hitting lineup that was lethal one through nine, and managed a tenacious pitching staff that handled pressure as brilliantly as a staff can.
The depth and potency of the lineup was a big reason the team brought home another trophy and that was on full display in the title-clinching win. The lineup was led by senior second baseman Amanda Marra, who slammed two run-scoring doubles while scoring two runs. Both of those doubles came in the game's first three innings, when the Chargers quickly built a 5-0 lead on the Yellow Jackets.
Sophomore catcher Madison Stoner, who came through in the clutch all weekend, delivered a bases-loaded, two-out single that brought in two runs, and junior Victoria Addis, who hit two home runs during the tournament, added a bases-loaded single that scored Marra with the game's first run.
That five-run cushion was plenty for junior pitcher Dana Weidinger, who got the well-deserved victory in the circle, going 6.1 innings with no walks, two strikeouts and two runs allowed. She pitched to her strengths, not allowing Cedarville to find an offensive groove at any point during the game.
Freshman pitcher Camryn Olson, who was invaluable out of the bullpen all throughout the tournament, came on to record the final two outs of the game, earning the save.
Seven different players accounted for the eight hits in the victory for Hillsdale, showing how tough of a lineup this is for opposing teams to navigate. Natalie Walters, Katie Kish and Sam Catron each had a hit and scored a run.
PHOTO: Edward Smith