Senior day was one of the major themes of the day for the Augustana College softball team and there was one former Quad-Cities senior who stepped up her game in a crucial twinbill between the hosting Vikings and Millikin.|
Unfortunately for the Vikings, that senior was one who got away and came back home to haunt them.
Former Rockridge prep standout Whitney Schafman played a huge role in the Big Blue taking two from Augie by scores of 9-0 (5 innings) and 3-2.
The other major theme was that it was do-or-be-done for both as they battled for spots in this weekend's CCIW Tournament. Augie needed a sweep to jump into the fourth spot; Millikin needed at least one win. Something had to give.
In the opener, Schafman was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs — both coming on her two-run homer in the fourth that gave MU an 8-0 lead. In the nightcap, she slid over from first base into the pitcher's circle in relief. She held the Vikings scoreless in 2 2/3 innings of relief, allowing just two hits and working out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh. She got the final out of the game on a grounder back to her that netted a forceout of Augie senior Jillian Gibbs at the plate.
"I always seem to do well back here,'' said Schafman, who was playing in front of family and friends, including her mom, who now lives just down the street from Carver Field.
That made it even more painful for Augie coach Kris Kistler, who had recruited her out of high school. In fact, Schafman said her college choice came down to Augie and Millikin, choosing the latter because she wanted to be away from home.
"It's been painful," said Kistler of watching Schafman. "She's a really good player."
It also was painful for the Vikings (25-13, 6-8 CCIW) to watch as the opener played out, with winning pitcher Lauren Kitterman (12-6) allowing just an infield single to former UTHS prep Courtney Ledezma. Millikin pounded the ball off Augie ace Sarah Hintz (15-4) as the Big Blue did not get cheated at the plate, ripping 11 base hits — three laser doubles by Kathleen Campbell to go with Schafman's homer.
"They just came out hitting the ball," said Kistler. "Sarah wasn't off or anything, they were just on fire hitting. Once they got confident, it was hard to stop them."
As it turned out, that offensive onslaught ended the Vikings' season. Despite that, Augie battled in the nightcap, but a two-run fifth off Morrison freshman relief pitcher Christie Wiersema proved the difference and brought the Vikings' season to an end.
It also ended the fine careers of Augie seniors of Gibbs, Sterling's Abbi Staples and Dawn Kernich.
"This is one of the best teams I've ever coached in terms of personalities and really wanting it," said a teary-eyed Kistler. "I think our seniors were really, really good leaders. We obviously have a lot to look forward to in the future with all of our freshmen and sophomores on the field, but our seniors were really good leaders, and it's hard to say goodbye to them."
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