LWSN highlights a local native that plays at the collegiate level every Monday. If you have a suggestion on a female athlete to highlight , send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This week’s feature is on former Fern Creek star Jennifer Leonhardt.
What a week Leonhardt had, she helped guide Southern Indiana to its first ever NCAA Division II Softball Championship this past weekend and was named the Most Outstanding Player. Read the story from USI below.
SALEM, Va.—University of Southern Indiana Softball captured the program’s first-ever national championship Monday with a sweep of Saint Anselm College in the finals of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.
The Screaming Eagles (41-23) blanked Saint Anselm in game one, 4-0, before routing Hawks, 8-3, in game two of the best-of-three series.
Game 1: USI 4, SAC 0
In the opener, junior outfielder Caitlyn Bradley (Forest, Indiana) belted a two-out, three-run home run over the leftfield fence in the top of the third inning to give the Eagles a commanding 3-0 lead. Junior second baseman Claire Johnson (Pittsboro, Indiana) padded the Eagles’ lead with a two-out, RBI-single in the sixth, giving sophomore pitcher Jennifer Leonhardt (Louisville, Kentucky) more than enough run support to secure the win in the circle.
Leonhardt (26-12) allowed just one hit and one walk in five innings of work to pick up the win in the opener. She had six strikeouts before giving way to junior pitcher Haylee Smith (Florence, Kentucky), who secured the final six outs of the contest.
Game 2: USI 8, SAC 3
After capturing the win in the opener, the Eagles wasted little time establishing control of the second game as USI scored seven times, all with two outs, in the bottom of the second inning to build an insurmountable 7-0 cushion.
The Eagles sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning and got RBIs hits from six different players as they essentially wrapped up the national title with five innings to play. Senior outfielder Olivia Clark-Kittleson (Carbondale, Illinois) started the rally with an RBI-single when she legged out an infield hit; while Johnson continued the onslaught with an RBI-single that ricocheted off the third baseman’s glove.
Leonhardt followed with a run-scoring hit through the middle of the infield; while Bradley’s two-run double in the ensuing at-bat put USI up 5-0. Sophomore outfielder Allison Schubert (Nicholasville, Kentucky) gave USI a 6-0 lead with an RBI-single; while senior first baseman Marleah Fossett (Brownsburg, Indiana) finished the scoring with another RBI-single.
A day after blasting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh inning against No. 25 Saint Leo University on her 21st birthday, Johnson cracked her second home run in as many days over the left-centerfield fence in the third inning to stake USI to a commanding 8-0 advantage.
Saint Anselm (44-13-1), who was playing for its first-ever national title, scored a run in the fourth inning and two in the fifth, but Leonhardt retired the final seven batters she faced after starting the game by retiring the first nine batters she faced.
Leonhardt, once again, picked up the win surrendering three runs off four hits and a walk. She had five strikeouts in the victory.
Leonhardt was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after posting a 5-0 record with a 1.44 ERA, a .091 opponent batting average and 40 strikeouts in 34 innings of work during the tournament. Johnson, Bradley and senior third baseman Mena Fulton (Bloomington, Indiana) joined Leonhardt on the All-Tournament team. (The complete list is below)
Led by 17th-year Head Coach Sue Kunkle, the Eagles became the first softball program in the state of Indiana to win a national championship at any level and the first women’s sport in USI history to capture a team national title. Additionally, USI became just the second Great Lakes Valley Conference team and second Midwest Region team to win an NCAA II title in softball, joining Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2007).
USI’s improbable march to the championship included a 14-1 postseason record for a team that finished the regular season with a 27-22 mark and the No. 6 seed in the GLVC Tournament. The Eagles captured the conference title with a perfect 4-0 mark and the NCAA II Midwest Region #1 Tournament title with a 3-1 record before sweeping the University of Illinois Springfield in the NCAA II Midwest Super Regional.
The Eagles became the 17th team in NCAA II history to sweep the NCAA II Softball Championship as they posted a perfect 5-0 record, with wins over three nationally-ranked teams and another that was receiving votes.
USI will honor its newest national champions Wednesday at 2 p.m. with a celebration on campus. Details will be released Tuesday.
Notes: USI tied California State University-Bakersfield (1989) for the most losses by a Division II national championship softball team…USI’s senior class, consisting of Clark-Kittleson, Fossett, Fulton and infielder Alex Logan (Carleton, Michigan)—finished as the all-time winningest class in program history after compiling a 161-69 overall record…it also is the first class in program history to advance to the NCAA II Tournament four times…Leonhardt surpassed Brooke Harmening and Amy Stetler for most innings pitched (229.0) in a single-season as she finished the 235.0 innings of work…the Eagles bring home the fourth NCAA II team title, joining Baseball (2010, 2014) and Men’s Basketball (1995)…USI Cross Country/Track & Field has captured 10 individual national championships.
2018 NCAA II Softball Championship All-Tournament Team
P-Morgan Perry (Saint Anselm)
P-Jennifer Leonhardt (Southern Indiana)
C-Rachel Miller (Southern Arkansas)
IF-Mena Fulton (Southern Indiana)
IF-Ashley Morris (Saint Leo)
IF-Claire Johnson (Southern Indiana)
OF-Megan Godoyo (Southern Arkansas)
OF-Shyanne DuBois (Saint Leo)
OF-Amanda Bickford (Saint Anselm)
OF-Caitlyn Bradley (Southern Indiana)
At-Large-Jill Roye (Southern Arkansas)
At-Large-Kylee Smith (North Georgia)
At-Large-Erin Thompson (Saint Anselm)
Most Outstanding Player-Jennifer Leonhardt (Southern Indiana)