SIOUX CITY | As expected, Morningside has reached the championship game of its Great Plains Athletic Conference softball tournament bracket.
The Mustangs staged a late rally to pull away from Doane, 9-3, then blanked Dordt 4-0 on a beautiful day at Jensen Complex Friday.
Ninth-ranked Morningside (37-8) must wait to see who it plays in a 2 p.m. contest Saturday. If the top-seeded Mustangs win that game, they will host a best-of-three series against the winner of the Hastings bracket on Monday.
Hastings, Concordia, Dakota Wesleyan and College of St. Mary are the competing schools at Hastings.
Rachel Henks picked up a pair of pitching wins, including a four-hit shutout of Dordt (20-19), which clipped Northwestern 2-1 in the opening game on Friday. Henks (31-6) allowed four singles with four strikeouts and one walk.
“I was tired the second game but I came through,” Henks said. “I knew my offense would come back for me.”
Henks was involved in a scoreless duel with Dordt’s Tianna Top until Elin Landgren, the No. 9 hitter in the Morningside lineup, led off the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run to left field. Two batters later, Abby Conner smashed a long homer over the center field fence and the Mustangs added a third run when Emilee Dorpinghaus singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit by Moriah Bohlmanan.
Conner, who got her fourth and fifth round-trippers of the season (she also homered against Doane), drove in another run with a single in the sixth inning.
“Once we come together as team nothing really can stop us and we don’t take that for granted,” Conner said. “It’s always nice making contact like that and when we’ve gone that deep into a game without scoring it’s something special.”
Rachel Evavold, who had two of the four Dordt hits, lined a one-out single to center in the top of the seventh. She went to second on a wild pitch and pinch-runner Jennifer Kooiker took third on a ground out before Henks retired Tessa Howerzyl on a long fly ball to center field to end the game.
“This is the toughest part getting ready to play these guys because conference is always tough, but the girls don’t want to quit, they have a lot of games in them,” Morningside Coach Jessica Jones-Sitzmann said. “One swing can change the game. This is going to be a tough pod and the other one is, too. It’s fun to see good games.
“I would have loved to score a little sooner, but timely hits came into play for us. Rachel threw well for us today. We’re going to rest up to see who we play tomorrow and just go at ‘em.”
Conner finished 3-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt, while Bohlmann was 2-for-3 with a double and Landgren 2-for-3. McKenzie Anderson led off the seventh with an infield single, went to second on Landgren’s second hit of the game and scored on a base hit to left by Conner.
Dordt, which plays an elimination game at noon Saturday, also got an infield single from Marissa VandenBerg in the third inning. That was the Defenders’ only other scoring threat as Corinne Valdix followed the hit with a walk, but Henks gt the final out on a grounder to second.
Eighth-seeded Doane was tied with Morningside 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth with two outs and nobody on base. Mara Amsberry faced a no ball, two strike count before hitting a double to left field.
That opened the floodgates for the Mustangs, who went on to score six runs.
Conner was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in the go-ahead run. Rachel Koch contributed a two-run single, Dorpinghaus an RBI double and Allie Martinez a two-run single.
Koch was 3-for-4 while Dorpinghaus and Martinez were each 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Conner hit a two-run homer in the first inning.
Henks allowed four hits, struck out six and walked three.