Sioux City - The Hastings College softball team battled into the if necessary game and came away with its first Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament Championship since 2009. The Broncos dropped game one 8-1 to Morningside before coming back to defeat the Mustangs 5-2 and 5-4 on Monday evening.
Head Coach Troy Baker complimented his team on its gritty effort, "I'm so proud how the team responded especially having one bad inning that cost us the first game," Baker said.
That one inning he is talking about was the bottom of the 6th where Morningside scored eight runs off of two early errors by Hastings that saw the Mustangs go from 1-0 down to up 8-1 which was the final of game one.
This put Hastings in a tough spot now having to win two straight games against the No. 9 team in the country in order to be named GPAC Tournament Champions.
Hastings then turned to ace Josie Bumgardner (SO/Hastings, NE) in game two where she held the Mustangs in check until the 4th when MC scored on a sac fly to take a 1-0 lead.
What seemed to doom the Broncos in game one in turn came back against the Mustangs as Cara Williams (SR/Omaha, NE) attempted to move Alex Schmidt (SO/Hastings, NE) to second on a bunt but Rachel Henks threw the ball away. This was nearly identicle to what happed to the Broncos in game one that sparked the eight run 6th.
With runners on the corners, Chloe Boeka (SR/Gretna, NE) ripped a game tying RBI single plating Schmidt to tie the game 1-1. Hastings would load the bases with two outs when Bumgardner helped her own cause blasting a grand slam over the left field fence for the 5-1 lead.
From there, Bumgardner allowed just one more run in her complete game effort keeping the Broncos alive for the tournament title.
Now going to a game three, Hastings turned to true freshman Ashlynn Clifford (FR/Corona, CA) as she was asked to keep the Mustang bats in check.
Clifford would get some help before she even took the mound as Lexie Linderman (FR/Omaha, NE) roped a double to right which scored Williams for the early 1-0 lead.
Clifford would do her part keeping Morningside off the scoreboard until Linderman struck again in the 3rd with a 2-run home run to right center increasing the Bronco lead to 3-0.
Clifford continued to stymie the Mustangs as she not only kept them off the scoreboard, but also out of the hit column through four innings of play.
In the top of the 4th, Hastings would strike again with RBI singles from Corrin Ziepke (JR/Omaha, NE) and Boeka pushing the Bronco lead to 5-0.
The Mustangs finally got a hit off Clifford in the 5th and it was a big one as Mara Amsberry hit a 2-run home run to left cutting the deficit to 5-2.
This lead would hold into the 7th when Allie Martinez connected on another 2-run home run bringing the Mustangs to within one run at 5-4.
Coach Baker decided that it was time to go back to his ace Bumgardner as she got a groundout and a strikeout to give Hastings the conference title.
"Josie and Ashlynn had great outings and Josie's grand slam with Lexie's home run were the big blows of games 2 and 3," Baker said.
After Bumgardner got the final out, she ran straight over to the bench and jumped into Kaitlynn Behnk's arms as the celebration was on.
Hastings finishes the regular season 36-22 and will now wait to hear where they will be going for the NAIA National Softball Championship Opening Round.