In all likelihood, a turnaround season for the St. Ambrose softball program ended Monday with a pair of stinging setbacks.
With an automatic berth in the NAIA national on the line, the Queen Bees ran out of rallies in dropping 5-4 and 7-6 games to Grand View in the championship games of the Midwest Collegiate Conference tourney at the Green Valley Sports Complex in Moline.
The Vikings scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning of both games to move ahead to stay against the league regular-season champions, enough of a margin to withstand single runs by St. Ambrose in the bottom half of the final inning in both games.
In the final game, a two-run double by Grand View’s Morgan Powers in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference after St. Ambrose forged a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the sixth when Kristen Paulson clubbed the Queen Bees’ third solo home run of the game.
Stephanie Hebison drove a run home in the bottom of the seventh, but a groundout by Niki Green left the tying run stranded on first base.
Paulson’s shot to center came after the Vikings had scored three runs to open a lead in the top half of the inning to erase the 4-2 lead solo homers by Kaitlyn Reiser and Samantha Saladino had given the Queen Bees (40-15) in the bottom of the fifth.
Inning-opening hits by Cari Smith and Caitlyn Carmichael opened a rally that ended with RBI singles by Anna Arnold and Jordan Sandquist gave the Vikings a short-lived 5-4 edge.
The St. Ambrose power surge came after Grand View (25-24) used a two-run single by Justina Glick to erase the lead the Queen Bees had built with single runs in the first two innings.
Sarah Frerichs scored on a sacrifice fly by Reiser before a two-out single by Erin O’Donnell extended the St. Ambrose lead to 2-0.
Grand View forced the deciding game in the double-elimination tournament by pushing four runs across in the final three innings of a 5-4 win which ended a 16-game winning streak by the Queen Bees.
St. Ambrose led 3-2 through five innings, using a two-run home run by Stephanie Hebison in the second and a run-scoring single bySaladino in the fifth to hold its early edge.
The Vikings tied the game in the top of the sixth on Abbey Wilmes’ second solo homer of the game, then earned the win an inning later when Sandquist laced a two-run triple to right to break a 3-3 deadlock.
Frerichs scored from second following a fly out by O’Donnell in the bottom of the seventh before Haleigh Munson retired the next two batters she faced to earn the complete-game win.