Packers share conference crown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2002

The Austin softball team earned a share of the Big Nine Conference title for the first time since 1992 with a 4-1 victory at Mankato West Friday night.

The Packers (16-3, 15-2) tied Mankato East for the league's top spot, losing once to the Cougars and to Winona early in the season. Austin's youthful squad had no trouble leaving its past behind them.

"To be able to stay focused and maintain a high level of excellence, that says a lot about the character and the focus of this team," said Austin coach Todd Waterbury. "They didn't let one game affect the next.

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"I'm really proud of the girls."

The Packers pounded out nine hits in their final regular-season game, and pitcher Amy Kelly struck out 12 while allowing just three hits. Austin awaits the seeding for the Section 1AAA Softball Tournament, which begins Wednesday night at Todd Park. The Packers will likely be one of the top two seeds, both of which would receive byes through the first round.

"There was some celebration, but they knew there was more to come," Waterbury said of Friday's win. "We still have unfinished business."

Chelsea McColley continued her recent tear, going 3-3 with a double to lead Austin's offense. McColley is 7 for her last 7. Betsy Hingeveld hammered a triple while going 2-4.

"They were pretty confident," Coach Waterbury said. "Kylene (Erstad) came up in the first with a leadoff hit. We were just putting the bat on the ball. The bottom of the order did a nice job coming through for us too."

Right fielder Caitlin Jurgenson hit for herself Friday night, and made West pay with her first hit of the season. After Steph Sundberg drove in Steph Eslinger with a misplayed grounder, Jurgenson plated Nicole Turvey with a single past the third baseman.

McColley led off the third with a double, moved to third on a groundout and scored on Keri Feller's groundout to second.

"That was a nice run to get," Waterbury said. "Just the way we got it, nothing special, just playing small-ball."

Hingeveld led off the seventh with a triple over the right-fielder's head and scored on McColley's second single of the game.

"Everything was on the line, you just can't duplicate that," Waterbury added. "It was a nice setup for us to have a pressure situation. We were going to gain from that game no matter what happened."

The Packers, if in fact they get one of the top two seeds in the Section, will play Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Todd Park in Austin.

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at




Kelly and Feller; Meyer, Thompson (5) and Kuhlmahn. WP--Kelly. LP--Meyer. 2B--McColley, Kuhlmahn. 3B--Hingeveld.