NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- For the first time since 2006, St. Thomas (Minn.) is back in the eight-team Division III national tournament.
The Tommies erased a 4-1 deficit and stormed to a 10-4 win against North Central (Ill.) at Sunday’s super regional championship game. The teams split two Saturday games to set up the one-game showdown.
The Tommies won their third consecutive weekend postseason tournament. It will play Salisbury at 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday in round one of the eight-team double-elimination national tourney.
In four previous trips to nationals under coach John Tschida, the Tommies have placed fifth in 2002; first in '04 and '05; and second in '06.
St. Thomas junior Breezy Bannon, who spent much of the season as UST’s No. 4 or 5 pitcher, started just her fifth game of the season and went the distance with a seven-hitter. She walked only one and retired nine of the last 11 batters to win her third game of the postseason.
Kristin Bigelbach (three hits) and Mary Rentz (two hits, walk, sacrifice) each scored three runs for UST, which had 10 hits and capitalized on five Cardinal errors and three walks.
North Central (33-13) scored four runs in the last of the third inning to take a 4-1 lead.
Brenna Walek ignited UST’s five-run fourth-inning rally as she hit a two-run homer -– her 16th of the season. That cut the deficit to 4-3, and Jenna Hoffman’s two-out, two-run single put the Toms ahead to stay at 5-4. UST came back with three more runs in the fifth inning to build a cushion.
Hoffman went 2-for-4 and now has 79 hits in 49 games –- one off the St. Thomas season record.