Cardinals accomplish their mission(s) with 4-2, 11-4 MIAC sweep of Carleton
A sweep of Carleton would guarantee the Cardinals a spot in the four-team MIAC Tournament.
Two wins would also give SMU its 14th straight 20-win season.
The Cardinals broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth mining one on Nikki Jung's (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) team-leading fifth home run of the season and the other on an RBI double by Tara Close (North St. Paul, Minn.) en route to a 4-2 victory over the Knights in the opener.
SMU then completed its mission in impressive fashion, scoring at least one run in five of the sixth innings it batted including a game-changing five-run second inning in routing the Knights, 11-4.
"We knew the importance of these two games and we came out focused and determined to get the job done," said SMU coach Jen Miller, whose team improved to 15-5 in the MIAC and maintained its stranglehold on third place in the conference standings. "We've struggled getting our bats going early in games lately, but today we came out swinging right from the start and never let up."
SMU jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the opener, sandwiching single runs in the first and second around a Carleton second-inning run. The Knights added their second unearned run of the game to tie things up in the fourth, before Jung and Close two of five seniors playing in their final home doubleheader delivered the knockout blows in the fifth.
"It's great to see the seniors step up and play so well in their final home games," said Miller, who watched as Jung went 3-for-6 with 3 RBIs, while Close was 3-for-7 with a pair of RBIs in the two games. "Nikki and Tara really stepped up offensively as did (Melissa) Mondo (Vadnais Heights, Minn. / 2-for-7, 2 runs scored) and we got great pitching from (senior) Megan Wallisch (Loveland, Colo. / 12 IP, 10 hits, four earned runs, nine strikeouts).
"We let Carleton hang around a little too long (in the first game, and it was nice to see us jump on them early (in the second game)," continued Miller. "We need our bats to continue to produce if we are going to make any kind of a run (in the conference tournament).
SMU jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two innings in Game 2, but Wallisch delivered one pitch she'd love to have back surrendering a one-out, grand slam home run to Michael Johnson that cut the Cardinals ' lead to 6-4.
Hannah Schmitt (Rosemount, Minn.) delivered two of her four Game 2 RBIs with a single in SMU's three-run fourth inning, and the Cardinals then iced the win with single runs in the fifth and sixth.
"I'm very happy with our performance today," said Miller, whose team closes out its conference schedule with a doubleheader at St. Olaf on Monday, before concluding its regular-season schedule with a nonconference twinbill at UW-River Falls on Tuesday. "We've got a couple of big doubleheaders to start the week hopefully we can play well and build some momentum heading into the (MIAC) tournament."