SIOUX CITY – Hallie Misiaszek was dealing and the Morningside College bats were sizzling on the opening day of the Great Plains Athletic Conference softball tournament Thursday.
Misiaszek pitched a couple of gems and the Mustangs were solid from the top of the lineup to the bottom in disposing of College of St. Mary 6-1 and Concordia 9-1 at the Jensen Softball Complex.
The two victories sent Morningside (27-8) into the championship game of the Morningside bracket at 2 p.m. Friday. The Mustangs will wait and see how things pan out before their opponent is determined for the Friday final.
Mount Marty beat College of St. Mary in an elimination game late Thursday and takes on Concordia at noon Friday. Morningside then plays the winner of that contest at 2 o’clock and a second championship game, if necessary, is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The winner of the Morningside bracket plays the winner of the Midland bracket in a best of three format Saturday at the site of the highest remaining seed. Midland and Morningside shared the regular season title and Midland earned the No. 1 tournament seed, while the Mustangs are seeded second.
Dordt, the No. 8 seed, upset Midland in that part of the bracket on Thursday, knocking the Warriors into a must-win situation on Thursday against Northwestern, who dropped its first game of the tournament to Jamestown. Midland stayed alive and ended Northwestern's season with an 11-2 victory in six innings. The Warriors play an elimination game yet on Friday.
Lexie Stolen and Ellie Cropley, a pair of former Bishop Heelan High School teammates, swung the big bats for Morningside Thursday.
Stolen, a sophomore shortstop, was a combined 6-for-7 in the two games with three home runs, a double and seven RBIs. Her solo homer over the centerfield fence signaled an abrupt end to the 9-1 win over Concordia in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“Hallie did awesome on the mound and when your pitcher is on it’s sort of easier to back her up with runs,” Stolen said. “Offensively and defensively, we had an outstanding day.”
Cropley, a freshman outfielder, was retired only once in six plate appearances. She smacked her third home run of the season from the leadoff spot in the bottom of the first inning against Concordia after finishing 2-for-2 with a triple against College of St. Mary.
Misiaszek, a senior from Mitchell, South Dakota, twirled a two-hitter against St. Mary and spaced five hits against Concordia. The righthander raised her season record to 19-3.
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“Things came together well in these two games,” Morningside Coach Jessica Jones-Sitzmann said. “Hallie threw well and had some runs behind her so she could throw a little differently as well. I don’t know what the hitters ate, but they were putting the ball in play well.”
Eight of nine batters collected hits in the 13-hit attack against Concordia. Stolen slammed a three-run homer in the fourth and the walk-off solo shot in the sixth. Morgan Nixon added a solo homer and RBI single.
Morningside chased Concordia starter Brittany Woolridge in the third inning. Grace Bernhardt surrendered both of Stolen’s long balls and Mackenzie Lose doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch, giving the Mustangs an 8-0 lead after four innings.
Concordia pushed across its only run in the top of the fifth, but simply prolonged the agony, so to speak. Stolen’s no-doubt blast to center ended the contest by the mercy rule.
“I struggled all season so having this big day really boosted my confidence,” Stolen said. “Not only at the plate but all around.”
Stolen came into the tournament with a .243 average, but the huge day on Thursday ran her season totals to six home runs and 28 RBIs.
“These kids have worked hard for this and playing relaxed at home is a big factor, too,” Jones-Sitzmann said. “Today they showed what they were really capable of. We knew we had to focus one game at a time but coming out and getting two puts you in a good seat for tomorrow.”
Stolen was 3-for-3 and Cropley 2-for-2 in the victory over St. Mary. Cortney Joiner, the No. 9 batter, tacked on a couple of hits and scored twice for the Mustangs, who scored single tallies in the first and second innings, three in the third and another in the fourth.
Morningside has won seven GPAC tournament titles, but none since 2016. Last season the Mustangs had a quick exit after finishing 1-2 on their home field.
The Mustangs have now won 16 of their last 18 games are are unbeaten at the Jensen Complex.