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Lady Argos Playoff Run Ends with 8-5 loss to Morningside - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Lady Argos Playoff Run Ends with 8-5 loss to Morningside

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SIOUX CITY, IOWA– Back on April 18, the University of Great Falls softball team had just wrapped up divisional play in the Cascade Collegiate Conference, and with a .500 divisional record, it was still unclear if the team would make the six-school CCC playoffs.

Wednesday, the Lady Argos were one of the last 20 teams in the nation still playing softball. That amazing run won’t go any further, however, as UGF suffered a season-ending 8-5 loss to Morningside Colle (Iowa) in the finals of the NAIA Opening Round Morningside Bracket.

Because UGF had already lost to Morningside once earlier in the tournament, the Lady Argos would have needed to defeat the Mustangs twice in a row in order to move on to the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series. This forced UGF head coach Joey Egan to consider a two-game strategy, part of which included plans to use each of the team’s top two pitchers in each game.

Starting in the circle then for UGF was junior Shelby Abeyta, who had pitched perhaps her best game of the season against Campbellsville Tuesday. Things didn’t go as well for Abeyta in the first two innings Wednesday. The Mustangs scored two runs in the bottom of the first and one more in the second.

That set up a heroic moment for junior Hali Gruntowicz. A series of walks and bunts in the top of the third loaded the bases for UGF with no outs. After senior Alex Lowry hit into a fielder’s choice, Gruntowicz stepped to the plate. The team leader in batting average, not only hit for average but hit for power, clocking the ball over the left-field fence for a lead-changing grand slam. It was Gruntowicz’s first home run of the season.

The joys of taking a sudden and striking 4-3 lead were soon sedated. Two UGF errors in the bottom of the fourth led to five unearned Mustang runs. During that rally, the Lady Argos switched pitchers, going with senior Keeley Van Blaricom. While the runs in that inning weren’t a result of poor pitching from either Abeyta or Van Blaricom, the latter’s presence did eventually help end the rally and she only allowed two hits over the next two innings.

UGF managed to pull one run closer on an RBI double from junior Alissa Keeler in the top of the fifth, and put two runners on base in the top of the seventh but couldn’t generate enough offense for a full comeback.

Gruntowicz finished 1-4 with one home run and four runs batted in, while Lowry went 2-4 and scored two of the team’s five runs.

The loss puts an end to a 2016 season that brought a long list of firsts for the UGF program. It was the team’s first season as full members of the CCC and the team reached the conference finals for the first time. The Lady Argos also qualified for the NAIA Opening Rounds, played in and won the program’s first NAIA Opening Round game, and defeated a top-5 team for the first and second time in program history.

- Cascade Collegiate Conference

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