JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – As it turned out, a split is all Cornell needed to make the Midwest Conference Softball Tournament.
The Rams clinched a postseason berth with a 3-1 10-inning victory in Sunday's opener against Illinois College. Although confusion set in after Illinois College won the second game, 8-6, leaving both teams tied for second place in the final South Division points standings and unsure who had earned the No. 2 seed.
The Rams were well into their bus ride home when they finally learned their fate. Cornell got the nod based on a revised set of tiebreaking criteria which came down to winning percentage within the division. The Rams finished 6-4 in the South, while the Lady Blues went 5-5.
Cornell (18-14 overall, 9-6 MWC) qualified for the four-team MWC Tournament, hosted by St. Norbert May 3-4 in De Pere, Wis. The Rams open against North Division champion St. Norbert (19-13, 10-4 MWC) at 12 p.m. Friday, May 3. The Green Knights edged Cornell, 1-0, in the only prior meeting April 14 in East Peoria, Ill.
South Division champion Lake Forest (17-14, 12-3 MWC) plays North Division No. 2 seed Lawrence (19-13, 7-7 MWC) in Friday's other first-round game at 10 a.m.
Freshman Brianna Carney delivered the game-winning hit in the decisive Game 1 battle, which was tied 1-1 in the fourth and stayed squared into the 10th. The Rams got a leadoff single from Kari Martin, who then advanced to second on a Rebekah Ozga sacrifice bunt.
One out later, Carney singled in Martin to put the Rams ahead 2-1. Kelsey Boss added a two-out RBI hit to complete the scoring.
Cornell right-hander Jackie Sernek (10-3) finished what she started in the circle, retiring the hosts in order in the bottom of the 10th to seal the win. The junior ace gave up just four hits – all singles – and had only one Illinois College batter make it to third base. Sernek struck out eight and walked six.
The Rams took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Abby Haubold. The Lady Blues (20-14, 10-5 MWC) answered with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Martin and Rachel Aubry both finished 2-for-4 at the plate for the Rams, who collected eight total hits.
Illinois College gained control early in Game 2, putting up three runs in each of the first two innings and grabbing an 8-3 lead through three. The Rams scored once in the fourth, and added two more in the seventh. Cornell had the tying run at the plate when the game ended.
Haubold doubled, singled and drove in two runs for Cornell, which was outhit 13-9. Ozga added two hits and scored a run. Brittani Yost had two runs scored.
Amanda Engel (7-11) was dealt the loss, allowing five earned runs in 1.1 innings. Sernek worked the final four innings, giving up one run while fanning six.
Coming up – Cornell jumps back into nonconference play Tuesday, April 30, for a 4:30 p.m. home doubleheader against Wartburg (4-28) in the regular-season finale at Mount Vernon Softball Complex.