Starkson

MORRIS, Minn. -- When Bethany Lutheran became a Division III member in 2004-05, no athletic team has ever qualified for a national tournament. That changed on Saturday. The softball team beat Martin Luther 9-0 in six innings in the UMAC championship game to win the UMAC postseason championship and earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

In the cold, windy, and drizzly conditions, neither the Vikings nor the Knights could muster a run through three innings. Bethany finally warmed up to the cold in the fourth putting four runs on the scoreboard. Ashley Jensen got the inning started with a double to right center. Two batters later, Nicole Starkson brought her home with a single up the middle. An Amanna Berthusen walk and a Rebecca Ludewig single loaded the bases. Angela Timm singled to left scoring Starkson. Annie Donley then singled to right to score Berthusen. Gena Chester brought home Ludewig with a sacrifice foul fly to round out the scoring in the inning.

The bats continued to heat up in the fifth when the Vikings added three more runs. Jensen and Kelsey Pekarna both singled to lead off the inning. Berthusen delivered with a 2-RBI double to deep to put Bethany up 6-0. She would later score on a wild pitch.

That was more than enough for the starting pitcher, Starkson. She went the first five innings only allowing two hits while striking out six.

Martin Luther loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth in an attempt to extend the game, but MacCartney Mendolla flew out to Chester in center field for the final out and the celebration was on.

Bethany became the first No. 4 seed to capture the postseason tournament. The lower-seeded team won every game in Morris. In the end, the lowest seed coming in, became the champions.