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Cougars post 7-1 win over Norse to claim NCAA II Great Lakes Region championship

Rachele Vogelpohl earned all-tournament honors

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - Despite all the injuries and untimely defections, not to mention a starting lineup featuring five freshmen, they nearly made it three regional championships in a row.

But the Norse of Northern Kentucky University, who were one win away from capturing a third consecutive NCAA Division II Great Lakes Region title with two chances to get the victory, could not overcome the experience, clutch hitting and strong pitching of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville.

SIUE ended NKU’s two-year reign as Great Lakes Region champion with a 7-1 victory over the Norse on Monday in the tournament finale at Cougar Field. The top-seeded Cougars (52-9) scored four times in the third inning and added three more runs in the fifth to end fifth-seeded NKU’s unexpected run into the championship round.

SIUE had been forced to defeat NKU twice in a 24-hour period to earn the berth in the NCAA Division II World Series at Salem, Va. Coming out of the loser’s bracket and facing elimination Sunday, SIUE hung an 8-0 loss on NKU behind a one-hitter from Sabra McCune.

On Monday, McCune again notched the victory by recording nine strikeouts and allowing just three hits. NKU, which advanced to the championship round by winning its first three games of the tournament, finished with a 41-21 record.

Norse freshman pitcher Amanda Smith worked her way out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the second inning to keep the game scoreless. NKU’s Rachele Vogelpohl then led off the bottom of the inning with a double to left-center field and advanced to third on Cara Parker’s sacrifice bunt.

Jenny Weis followed by hitting a line drive directly at SIUE’s Alicia DeShasier, who made the catch on the run. Vogelpohl tagged up and attempted to score, but DeShasier fired a perfect throw to the plate to gun down the NKU shortstop and end the inning.

The momentum of that play carried over into the top of the third inning for SIUE in big-time fashion. Shanna Waldo led off by hitting a fly ball into right-center field that popped out of Kara Lorenz’s glove as she attempted to make a running catch. Holly Neuerburg laid down a sacrifice bunt that Parker fielded, but her attempt to cut down Waldo at third was late and Neuerburg reached first base safely on a fielder’s choice.

After DeShasier walked to load the bases, Smith struck out both Libby Lenart and McCune to bring Kaeleigh Rousey to the plate. Rousey responded by lining a two-run single up the middle for a 2-0 SIUE lead. Emily Lenart followed with another two-run single, and the Cougars owned a 4-0 advantage.

NKU’s lone run came in the sixth on an RBI double by Sarah King. Parker later came to bat with two runners aboard, and the freshman launched a drive to deep left-center field.

Waldo, however, made a running catch while crashing into the fence to end the inning. McCune pitched a scoreless seventh, and SIUE captured its first-ever Great Lakes Region championship.

DeShasier was named the most valuable player of the Great Lakes Regional for SIUE, which is ranked No. 4 nationally in the Division II poll. Smith, Vogelpohl, Heather Cotner, Ricki Rothbauer and Shatona Campbell were each named to the all-tournament team from NKU.

Smith finished with a 24-12 record for NKU. The 24 victories are the most by a freshman in Norse history.


Great Lakes Regional all-tournament team
Pitcher - Sabra McCune, Jr., SIU Edwardsville
Pitcher - Amanda Smith, Fr., Northern Kentucky
Catcher - Libby Lenart, Jr., SIU Edwardsville
Infield - Ricki Rothbauer (2B), Sr., Northern Kentucky
Infield - Kristin Eickholt (3B), So., Southern Indiana
Infield - Rachele Vogelpohl (SS), Sr., Northern Kentucky
Infield - Kaeleigh Rousey (SS), So., SIU Edwardsville
Outfield - Alicia DeShasier, Sr., SIU Edwardsville
Outfield - Shanna Waldo, Sr., SIU Edwardsville
Outfield - Heather Cotner, Sr., Northern Kentucky
Designated Player - Shatona Campbell, Fr., Northern Kentucky
At-Large - Allison Gerger (OF), Sr., Gannon
At-Large - Emily Lenart (1B), Jr., SIU Edwardsville
Most Valuable Player - Alicia DeShasier, SIU Edwardsville