Morningside defeated Great Falls 8-5 to earn a berth in the NAIA Softball World Series. Photo / Gene Knudsen

Rachel Koch

Morningside advanced to the NAIA Softball World Series when it defeated Great Falls 8-5 in Wednesday’s championship game of the Morningside Bracket of the 2016 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round in Sioux City.

The Mustangs have been in the NAIA national tournament field seven times in the last eight years, but this will be their first time as one of the last 10 teams standing since the NAIA moved to its current format four years ago.

Morningside will take a 47-8 record and a No. 15 national ranking into the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series slated for May 27 to June 2 at Morningside’s Elizabeth & Irving F. Jensen Softball Complex. The Mustangs will be the No. 7 seed in the tournament and will face unranked Webber International, the No. 10 seed, to open the World Series on Friday, May 27, at 10 a.m.

Great Falls, the “Cinderella” team of the Morningside Bracket as the only one of the four teams without a national ranking, created some anxious moments for the Mustangs when Hali Gruntowicz slugged a grand slam home run, her first round tripper of the season, to give the Argos a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning.

Moriah Bohlmann

Morningside answered with a big inning of its own when it plated five runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead for good at 8-4. All five runs were unearned thanks to a pair of Great Falls errors in the inning.

The Mustangs tied the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI single by Moriah Bohlmann and went ahead to stay when Rachel Koch delivered a run scoring single to put the Mustangs up 5-4. McKenzie Anderson had a RBI single later in the inning and two other runs came home when Allie Martinez was hit by a pitch and Morgan Fogelman walked, both with the bases loaded.

Doubles by the Argos’ Alex Lowry and Alissa Keeler produced a run in the top of the fifth inning and the guests had runners at first and third when pinch-hitter Kylie Prough laced a line drive that Mustang third baseman Abby Conner speared to end the inning.

Morningside began the game by scoring two runs in the first and another run in the second to take an early 3-0 lead. An RBI double by Martinez and a sacrifice fly by Anderson accounted for the Mustangs’ first inning runs before Elin Landgren doubled home a run in the second.

McKenzie Anderson

Anderson, Conner, and Koch each had two hits to pace a nine-hit Morningside offensive attack.

Lowrey had a double and single for Great Falls, which also finished with nine hits.

Morningside pitcher Aubrey Voboril allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits after she relieved Mustang starter Rachel Henks in the third inning. Voboril (21-2) struck out one and didn’t walk a batter. Henks allowed two runs on one hit with one walk and one strikeout in two plus innings.

Argo starter Shelby Abeyta allowed seven runs, three earned, on six hits before she was relieved by Keeley Van Blaricom with one out in the fourth inning. Van Blaricom allowed one unearned run on three hits in 2.2 innings. She walked one and struck out one.

Great Falls bowed out with a record of 27-20.

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