BLOOMINGTON — One coach thought the umpires were 100 percent wrong and the other coach thought the opposite, but Ally Wiegand's excellence made the fuss a moot point.
Wiegand fanned 12 while tossing a two-hitter on behalf of the No. 6 nationally ranked Illinois Wesleyan softball team during a 4-1 victory over the visiting Milwaukee School of Engineering in an NCAA Division III Regional semifinal on Friday.
The Titans (35-7) thus advanced to Saturday's noon final against Calvin (31-9) in which an IWU loss would force a 2:30 p.m. game in the double-elimination tourney.
After Wiegand dazzled fans by striking out eight of the first nine batters, the game took a feisty twist in the third inning when IWU's Sam Berghoff scored from first on Shelby Fulk's double.
Berghoff was tagged out, but ruled safe after the umpires decided catcher Emily Snow illegally blocked the plate.
"I had a great angle on it," said IWU coach Tiffany Prager, who saw the collision from the third base coach's box. "I understand their argument, but the rule is the rule. That was obstruction by the rule in the playbook. The umpires got it right."
MSOE coach Kyle Knoblauch said the plate umpire, Cody Lefebvre, initially made the correct call, but was swayed by base umpires Michael Brown and David Lee.
"The rule is that you have to provide a lane for the runner to slide into home plate or any base," Knoblauch said. "Our catcher caught the ball ... in the deep part of the right hand batters' box so there is clearly a lane on the inside.
"When I said that to them they had nothing, but 'settle down coach.' So there was no explanation. They 100 percent missed the call."
MSOE batters did a lot of missing, too. Only Caitlyn Spreitzer's single in the third inning and Kimberly White's solo homer in the fifth could dent Wiegand's wizardry.
"She's outstanding," Knoblauch said. "In my opinion, she's a D-I caliber pitcher. We knew that she would throw lots of strikes. I knew she liked to throw the ball down with lots of movement.
"She's a very composed kid. She likes to work fast. She was definitely in her rhythm."
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Fulk, back for the tourney after missing five games with a concussion, mimicked the rhythm of the rabbit trespassing across the outfield when she scored from third on Colleen Palczynski's single to make it 2-0 in the third.
The Raiders pulled within 2-1 on the homer by White, who had a grand slam in Thursday's 7-5 win over Calvin.
"She made a great swing," Wiegand said. "It was a curveball in the three spot. It was honestly probably a ball off the plate. She just made good contact. I was surprised when she hit it. She obviously has great opposite field power."
Wiegand exhibited the power of patience as MSOE batters fouled off many pitches.
"I actually feed off of foul balls," Wiegand said. "If they think they're hitting the ball square on, I personally think they are not because if you did, then it would have been in play. That helps keep me going through those long at-bats. A lot of them had really deep counts today."
As usual, IWU made the most of centerfielder Jillian Runyon's speed. She made long sprints to snare fly balls from White and Amanda Manssen.
While at second in the seventh, Runyan coaxed a wild throw from Snow before hustling home to make it 3-1. Mia Massaro ended the scoring after Fulk's second single of the day.
Calvin rallies: Grace Quiggle's grand slam with two outs in the top of the seventh sparked a six-run rally as Calvin stunned MSOE, 8-4, in an elimination game.
Earlier, Quiggle's three-run homer was the big blow during an eight-run second inning as Calvin ousted Otterbein, 8-6.