The Carthage softball team hadn’t defeated UW-Whitewater since March 16, 1998.
Suddenly, if the Reds can beat the Warhawks twice in two days, they’ll be moving on to the NCAA Division III Tournament super regionals.
Stefanie Guercio was brilliant again in the circle, Kelsey Domagala and Ellie Bernero each hit a solo home run, and Carthage vanquished its longtime nemesis Whitewater, 2-0, on Saturday in the second day of an NCAA Tournament regional at Whitewater’s Van Steenderen Softball Diamond.
“Whitewater’s been our nemesis for quite a few years,” Carthage coach Amy Gillmore said.
Carthage (28-14) will turn around now and play Whitewater (28-13) again today in the regional title round of the double-elimination tournament at noon.
The Warhawks, ranked 23rd in the latest NCAA Division III coaches poll, came back later Saturday to defeat 19th-ranked Coe (Iowa), 4-2, in an elimination game to advance to today.
Carthage, of course, has the advantage with a 2-0 record in the regional. The Reds need to beat the Warhawks just once to advance to a best-of-3 super regional next weekend at a site to be determined. Whitewater has to win today’s first game to force a do-or-die second game at 2:30 p.m. today.
“We definitely still have our work cut out for us, because they have a very good team,” Gillmore said. “But we put ourselves in a very good position, because we have two chances at this point. ... We have Stef, and we still have three very good pitchers behind her.
“They had to play a couple games today, and we’re still fresh.”
Guercio, who went the distance in Friday’s win over Coe, again tossed a complete game.
She improved to 20-4, scattering six hits with a walk and four strikeouts. She’s now one strikeout shy of tying the single-season program record of 225 set by Krystina Leazer in 2013.
“Even when we think she has a bad game, it would still be a very good game for most pitchers,” Gillmore said. “... She just doesn’t give up many walks. She just doesn’t give up many hits. We just come to expect it from her.
“If we can just score three runs a game, we think we’re pretty good.”
The Reds fell a run shy of that Saturday, but it was still enough.
In the top of the second, Domagala blasted a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right field on a 1-1 count to put Carthage up 1-0. It was the freshman’s second homer of the regional and third of the season.
“She’s been big for us, obviously, being a freshman and coming through,” Gillmore said.
In the top of the fourth, Bernero — a Bradford graduate — gave the Reds some insurance, taking the first pitch of the inning out to center field for her second homer of the season.
That was all Guercio needed, as she worked around a two-out double in the bottom of the seventh to complete the shutout.
The Reds are certainly in great shape in the pitching department today. Gillmore can go with Guercio again in today’s first game, but she has other options in Naomi Alonzo, Bernero and Madison Kern.
Gillmore said it’s honestly a “game-time decision” on who would start today.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” she said.
If the Reds keep playing as they have all week, and Gillmore said even going back to last weekend’s College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament, they’ll be in good shape no matter what.
“(We’re) playing with high confidence at this point,” Gillmore said.