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May 4, 2013

Tourney run closes in championship round

NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University's historic 2013 season came to end Saturday, May 4, at the close of a wild day of action at the 2013 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships.

Playing in front of a large crowd at their home Spartan Field, MU (22-17) battled back from a day one loss to fourth-seeded Franklin College with two wins to reach the ultimate championship game against second-seeded Anderson University. The top-seeded Black and Gold knocked Franklin out of the tourney in an elimination contest and followed that with an eight-inning thriller over Anderson. In the third game of the day, AU used a two-run first inning rally en route to a 5-1 victory that earned them a trip to the NCAA Division III national tournament.

The Spartans' third win of the season over rival Anderson got out to a strong start. Junior third baseman Kylie Planck (Valparaiso, Ind.) singled in a run in the bottom of the third, while freshman catcher Kalie Niezgodski (South Bend, Ind.) clouted a solo home run, her fourth of the weekend, to left center field in the fourth.

Anderson answered with a two-run home run from Lys Hess in the fifth for a 2-2 tie. Both sides had runners in scoring position in the 7th inning but couldn't capitalize. After a three-up, three-down top of the eighth, sophomore shortstop Emily Willmann (Montpelier, Ind.) reached first on a wild pitch third strike, went to second on a ground out and scored on a sacrifice fly and an error. Sophomore pitcher Ashlea Nash (Gas City, Ind.) moved into double digits in wins with seven and a third innings of work in which she didn't allow a walk and gave up only three hits.

Niezgodski drove in two runs with two hits against Franklin to get the Black and Gold into the championship round as part of a 4-1 decision, the Spartans' first of the season over the Grizzlies. Sophomore pitcher Maureen Lund (Huntington, Ind.) didn't surrender a run and gave up just two hits over the final five and two-thirds innings, gaining her 12th win of the season, and helped herself at the plate with two hits.

The 2013 HCAC champions had four players named to the all-tournament squad. Niezgodski, Planck, junior outfielder Kaitlyn Schmidt (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and sophomore outfielder Shannon Stephan (Granger, Ind.) were honored. Niezgodski hit .529 over the two days that included the four round-trippers, increasing her total to 11 for the season; Planck hit .313 with two doubles and a solid .450 on-base percentage; Schmidt spotlighted the Spartans' defensive efforts with 18 putouts and an assist as part of a 1.000 fielding percentage; and Stephan hit .375 with three doubles and was also perfect in the field on 10 chances.