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One of the more competitive duels in Twin Ports sports every spring is between two teams that never play each other — the St. Scholastica women’s softball team and the St. Scholastica men’s baseball team.
Sports fans in the area should pay special tribute to both of them, because they not only win the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championships in their sports with almost monotonous regularity, but by doing so, they earn the right to be host to their respective UMAC conference tournaments.
St. Scholastica won the UMAC regular-season title for the ninth consecutive time, and for the 19th time altogether.
The UMAC softball tournament was last weekend at Kenwood Field, which allowed the Saints to win their seventh conference tournament in the last nine years, rebounding from a dramatic title-game loss to Wisconsin-Superior last spring. It also sent the Saints into the NCAA tournament as UMAC’s automatic entry, an honor which St. Scholastica’s consistent excellence coaxed from the NCAA selection committee.
It also gave other UMAC teams the chance to appreciate that they would be facing Chrisi Mizera for the final time. Mizera, a big, strong pitcher and hitter, is having her finest season. In the playoff final, St. Scholastica beat Northwestern of Roseville 7-1. Mizera gave up five hits, walked none and struck out seven, and when she allowed the one run, it broke her streak of 22 scoreless innings, while pitching all but one inning the Saints played over the weekend. Oh, and befitting someone who won the UMAC batting title with a lofty .526 average, she also smashed two home runs, giving her three of her five for the season in the tournament.
Winning doesn’t make things easier for the Saints, who head into the NCAA regional in Decorah, Iowa, where their 24-15 record looks less lofty next to Luther College, which is 39-3. The Saints play Luther Friday. St. Catherine’s (32-11) plays the University of Chicago 25-18)in the other semifinal.
But even the Saints fabulous record in softball pales in comparison to the St. Scholastica baseball. The Saints punctuated their 21st consecutive UMAC regular-season championship by going 16-0 this season, and their 29-8 overall record includes a 9-4 mark against the MIAC and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate conference combined. The Saints are ranked fourth in the NCAA region, and 25th nationally among Division III teams.
The UMAC tournament at Wade Stadium begins with No. 2 seed Bethany Lutheran facing No. 3 Minnesota-Morris at 4 p.m. Thursday, followed by the 7 p.m. match between top-seed St. Scholastica and No. 4 Wisconsin-Superior.
The Saints know how pesky UWS can be, and the Yellowjackets had to be more than pesky to make the tournament. Going into last weekend, the ‘Jackets were 5-7, but they swept two final doubleheaders to make the field. In their last game, they trailed 5-3 in the eighth, but rallied for two runs, then scored the winning run on a ninth-inning steal of home.
On the Division II front, UMD had to win twice at home to make the NSIC tournament and faced Northern State in a pair of doubleheaders. The Bulldogs took care of business Friday by winning 4-1 behind sophomore Ryan Cunningham’s 4-hit pitching, then got the sweep with a 7-6 victory in the nightcap.
Northern had to sweep both doubleheaders to make the eight-team NSIC tournament, and while UMD had secured the sixth seed, they lost both games in the second doublehader, 5-4 and 9-2 to end the regular season 18-19, and 23-26 overall. The Bulldogs open NSIC playoff action against St. Cloud State.
Cup Runneth Full
One of the most intriguing nights of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey was Wednesday night — meaning those games are over, and you’ll know the outcomes before reading this. It featured a pair of Game 7 battles, with first Pittsburgh facing Washington in D.C., and then Edmonton at Anaheim to decide whether the changing of the guard is happening, or being delayed.
Regardless of those outcomes, the action so far has been often spectacular. Ottawa went into Madison Square Garden and zapped the New York Rangers 4-2 with an empty-net goal on Tuesday night, clinching that series in six games. The Senators got a 2-0 lead, held it at 2-1 and then 3-2, with a spectacular goal by superb defenseman Erik Karlsson proving to be the winner, and the brilliant goaltending of Craig Anderson repeatedly robbing the Rangers.
That means Ottawa got an extra day to rest while awaiting the Washington-Pittsburgh winner, just as the Nashville Predators, who put away the St. Louis Blues, got several days to await the Edmonton-Anaheim winner.