May 21, 2007

Cardinals finish fourth in NCAA softball

Let 5-0 lead slip away in 6-5 loss to Wisconsin-Eau Claire

SALEM, Va. -- Plattsburgh State held off one comeback Sunday afternoon, but it couldn't do it again in the evening.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire rallied from a 5-0 hole and Bekki Kidnie drove in a run in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Blugolds to a 6-5 victory that eliminated the Cardinals from the NCAA Division III Softball Championships.

"It was tough," Plattsburgh State pitcher Jaclyn Leitze said. "To go out there and have a 5-0 lead at one point and to end up losing it in the seventh inning, it was tough. It was definitely heartbreaking.

"But you look back on everything we've accomplished this year and in our program's short history, and it's unbelievable. You have to take that and know that you're accomplishing the goals that you're setting for yourself, even if it didn't happen all the way this time."

The seventh-seeded Cardinals (37-14) finished in fourth place in the tournament.

In the first game of the day at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex, Plattsburgh State edged No. 4 seed DePauw, 2-1, in eight innings after the Tigers tied it in the seventh.

No. 3 seed Wisconsin-Eau Claire (38-13) takes on Linfield today. The winner faces Washington, which is 3-0 and can claim the national title with one more win.

The Cardinals had been very good at protecting leads all season -- heading into Sunday evening, they were 33-2 when scoring first.

"I can't say enough about the fight in our players," Wisconsin-Eau Claire coach Leslie Huntington said after her team dodged elimination. "They don't quit. They're going to drive me to early retirement, but they don't quit."

Mallory McKinney took the pitching circle in the fourth inning and held the Cardinals to five hits and one run to earn the win.

Plattsburgh State coach Sean Cotter said he felt the momentum start to swing toward the Blugolds when McKinney struck out Shannon Connors with the bases loaded in the fifth.

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