MANKATO, Minn. - Southeastern opened the game with three runs in the first inning and weathered a Central Oklahoma rally attempt over the final three innings to hold on for a 5-4 win over the Bronchos on Saturday in the winner’s bracket of the Central Sub Region 2 Tournament in Mankato, Minn.
The win lifts the Savage Storm to 40-17 on the year and puts them into the tournament championship game currently scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday.
UCO will face the winner between Minnesota State and Emporia State at 3 p.m. on Saturday, with the winner of that contest advancing to face SE in the Central Sub-Region 2 championship game.
The win also gives the team its third-straight 40-win season and the fifth in the last seven years.
The two long-time conference rivals separated by just 160 miles traveled over 1,500 miles combined for the contest which was the first between the two since the 2011 season, the last for both programs as members of the Lone Star Conference.
Haley Strawn and Jessica Simmons each put up two hits, with Strawn turning in a double and a home runs, while Simmons tripled to open the contest.
Lacie Cook, Laramie Beal and Arianna Jones each added hits, with Strawn driving in a pair of runs while Beal and Mindy McElroy each added one RBI.
McElroy picked up her 26th win of the year in the circle after tossing 6.2 innings and allowing four runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts.
Jacee Bennett faced just one batter in the contest, but made it count by picking up a strike out when UCO had runners on second and third and just one out.
Simmons opened the contest with a triple to right center, but was followed by back-to-back strikeouts.
Beal then stepped to the plate and singled to left to put the Storm on the board, and just one batter later that lead stretched to 3-0 when Strawn homered to left.
SE went in order in the second and got a hit and left a runner stranded in the third, but picked up the scoring pace in the fourth inning.
Strawn opened the inning with a double and scored when Courtney Riddle reached on an error attempting to sac bunt her to third.
Conner Harmon then came on to run for Riddle, moving to third on a Jones sac bunt and scoring on a sac fly by McElroy to mount a 5-0 lead.
On the other side, McElroy allowed four hits over the first four innings, but only once did runners advance past first base.
However, UCO broke through in the fifth inning with an RBI single to cut the SE lead to 5-1.
The Bronchos added two more on a home run and an RBI double in the fifth and were poised to add more with runners on second and third with just one out.
That’s when Bennet stepped into the circle and struck out Hannah Justus, the only batter she would face, followed by McElroy coaxing Kaylee Brunson to pop out and end the threat with SE leading 5-3.
After not adding to its lead in the top of the seventh, McElroy opened the bottom half by retiring the first two batters faced.
UCO then closed the gap to 5-4 with a solo home run by Brooke Zuckerman.
That was followed by a single and then Emily Ditmore reached on a wild pitch after McElroy recorded the strikeout that should have ended the game.
However, it would end one batter later when Jones hauled in a line drive off the bat of Sam Cool in left field to record the final out and preserve a 5-4 victory.