Lombardo Walks Wisconsin Off Into Regional Final
NORMAN, Okla. -- The NCAA tournament is where names are made. And for at least one night there is no bigger name in the state of Wisconsin than that that of Stephanie Lombardo.
The senior from New Berlin, WI. came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning and two outs on the board with her Badgers trailing Notre Dame 4-2. Up until that moment, she had been held hitless on the night.
Lombardo had a chance to either be the final out of the season for the Badgers or the hero of the night. she chose the latter by crushing a 3-run walk-off homer over the centerfield fence to give UW (42-13) the 5-4 victory over Notre Dame (37-18).
“We just refused to lose,” Lombardo said. “We were going to give it our all no matter what it took. And we were all together, all the way.”
According to Lombardo, she had a similar moment earlier in her career.
“A couple of years ago against Michigan in the 11th I hit a walk-off double,” Lombardo said. “It was about this time to, after 11 p.m. But this defiantly tops that.”
Wisconsin moves on to face No. 1 Oklahoma again in the Regional Championship. In order to keep their WCWS hopes alive, they have to beat OU twice on the Sooner’s home field.
But UW coach Yvette Kelly refused to let her team look tar ahead.
“I think everyone is going to celebrate the victory tonight,” Kelly said. “We tell everyone not to focus on Oklahoma tonight. It was just about making it to championship Sunday. If you do that, you’ve got a chance. Just like going into the last inning, we said just bring the tying run to the plate, you never know what will happen.”
Notre Dame lost to Wisconsin to start the Norman Regional on Friday. While it was a close game, the Badgers were in control the entire contests.
Fast-forward to late Saturday night and it was a complete reversal for the two teams. With their postseason lives on the line, it looked like the Irish were going to be the team to advance as they took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning.
But in the seventh Wisconsin finally got to Notre Dame’s Tidd and plated two runs. That set up Lombardo to close out the night.
“To be honest, the only thing going through my mind was to keep my heart rate down, control my breathing, like coach told me while I was on deck,” Lombardo said. “She knew what was coming. That is the only thing, otherwise I had a clear head.”
Ride Comes To An End For Retrievers
UMBC saw its postseason come to an end Saturday when they fell 2-0 to Notre Dame in loser-out game. While they played better than in their opener, they weren’t able to get their offense going.
Despite the loss, the Retrievers still valued the opportunity to make it to the NCAA tourney for the first time in their careers.
“The experience in general,” an emotional Jenna Stupey said. “Coming to this level and playing at this level, it’s not something I ever thought was part of my dream. So it’s an honor for the experience to be here. It’s all over. Softball is basically how I came to be. I don’t know where I would be without softball.”