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Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015

Tigers softball wins SCAC, headed to NCAA tourney

Monday, April 25, 2011

DePauw junior Jen Kosinski, shown here against Cente, helped lift the Tigers to its third SCAC title in four years. She was also named to the All-SCAC Tournament team along with teammates Emma Minx, Brianne Weeks and Emily Bichler. [Order this photo]
Emily Bichler's crafty pitching and Haley Buchanan's towering three-run home run carried DePauw past Trinity, 3-2, to earn its third Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference softball championship in four years Sunday at home.

DePauw (26-7-1), ranked 20th in NCAA Division III and was 3-0 in the conference tournament. Coach Bonnie Skrenta's team defeated Centre, 9-0, and Trinity, 4-1, Saturday to reach the championship game. Trinity (21-24) came back to defeat Southwestern, 7-1, Saturday night and faced the task of beating DePauw twice on Sunday.

"I'm so excited," Skrenta said. "This group of girls has worked so tremendously hard. It's a great accomplishment. This is a tough tournament and that Trinity team was tough as nails. We played them twice in this tournament and I hope we don't see them again.

"It's the last year we're part of the SCAC and to be on this field and to face a long-time rival, Trinity, and to come out with a win, I think it is a real special moment."

It was Bichler's third straight complete-game victory in the tournament. The right-hander retired the final 10 batters and allowed only one runner, a two-out single by Rachel Garrett in the fourth, in Sunday's tournament finale.

Bichler gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out one Sunday.

"She had an outstanding day," Skrenta said. "She's a sophomore and every day she grows and is getting stronger and better. She was so excited to be in the tournament and on the mound. She wanted the ball. Those numbers say she really took care of it. She's very creative keeping batters off balance. A lead definitely helps."

Trinity had two singles in the first inning, but Bichler retired Brooke Sanchez on a comebacker to end it.

Trinity loaded the bases on two singles and a walk with one out in the third. Bichler got the second out, but Karen MacPherson drove in two with a single down the right-field line. With runners on second and third, Bichler got out of the jam by getting Megan Russell to pop out to shortstop Brianne Weeks.

With one out in the third, Weeks singled to left. Jen Kosinski also singled to left. Emma Minx's hard shot to third forced Weeks and brought Buchanan to the plate.

Buchanan, the designated player, launched a long drive over the left-centerfield fence to put DePauw on top, 3-2.

"I knew it was going over the fence once it came off the bat," Buchanan said. "It was one of those pitches that came inside and I was able to turn on it and it just went. These past couple of days, I've actually been struggling at bat and I was just trying to get a base hit and move the runners around. It happened to go over the fence.

"I'm so excited for our team. We've worked really hard and it's a great reward to come out on top like this."

Buchanan's home run was her team-leading 10th of the season. It also tied DePauw's single-season record.

"If you had seen her practice the past three days, you knew she was working on things with her swing," Skrenta said. "She didn't always feel the most comfortable, but kept saying, 'Patience, you're doing great, you'll find the time,' and she found the time at the right time."

Once in front, Bichler (24-7) was in command.

"I think I was definitely in the zone," Bichler said. "I was trying to come out and kick some butt. I mixed in a lot of my drop ball and my rise ball at the end, especially with the slappers. It was pulling them out of the box.

"I think it just helps when we came back and get ahead of them and they started getting more frustrated. They weren't as comfortable with themselves. I think my pitches got more in their heads. I think that's what happened and I'm glad it did."

Bichler was supported by outstanding defense, led by shortstop Weeks. The senior from Kokomo had three assists and three putouts, including sprinting into a muddy area in foul territory down the left-field line for the final out of the third inning.

"Brianne had a great day with the ball being wet," Skrenta said. "We hadn't faced runners with that speed yet this season and you only have a second to do the job and she got it done. She went into that wet ground (on the fly in foul ground) and hit the fence and held onto the ball. That was a pivotal moment in the game. Brianne is a senior and you like to see your senior leaders step up like today and make those plays that are really hard look really easy."

DePauw's SCAC championship assures an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"We're headed to the NCAA regional," Skrenta said. "We don't know where that will be, maybe in Adrian, Michigan, or Central College in Iowa."

Bichler is ready for the next challenge.

"It feels great to win the conference and we've been looking forward to it the whole season," Bichler said. "We can't wait to go to regionals and show them who we are."

At DePauw

SCAC Championship

Trinity 020 000 0 -- 2 7 1

DePauw 003 000 x -- 3 7 0

Devost, Friday (3) and Garcia; Bichler and Hallett.

WP -- Bichler (24-7).

LP -- Devost (13-13)

HR: DePauw -- Buchanan, two on in third.

1B: Trinity -- MacPherson 2, Garrett, Kinlaw, Armstrong, Weyand, Rush; DePauw -- Weeks 3, Kosinski, Hallett, Paris.