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CEDAR RAPIDS — Kristen Winter drew an audience with her return home.
She provided a show for the familiar faces in attendance.
Winter hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth, powering second-seeded Luther to a 5-4 win over Buena Vista in the winner’s bracket of the Iowa Conference softball tournament Friday at Clark Field. The Norse advanced to play No. 1 seed Coe Saturday, starting at noon.
The former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including the game-winning shot, in front of her family, friends and some Saints players she helps coach when classes end.
“It was really nice,” Winter said. “It was fun. It was a good day.”
Some might feel some added pressure to perform, but that wasn’t the case. Winter was focused, approaching it like any other game.
“I have a great support system at home and my team at Luther is unbelievable,” Winter said. “I try to take each game as it is and do my thing. I do whatever it takes to help the team.”
Winter ripped her fifth home run of the season over the left-field fence. She didn’t step in the batter’s box, looking to end it. Winter attempted to set the table for others.
“I learned in the past if you try to hit a home run it’s not going to work so I just go up thinking I need to get on base so my teammates can move me around and hit me in,” Winter said. “If the ball was there I was looking for a base hit.”
Winter provided two key base hits earlier in the game, driving in a run in the first and in the fifth. The last put Luther up, 4-0.
“She is one of the hardest outs in our batting order,” Luther Coach Renae Hartl said. “She has a fantastic sense of a strike zone and never deviates from it.”
Kelsey Rose had two hits and Miranda McCay scored twice for Luther (28-6).
Buena Vista battled back with three in the sixth, including a two-run single from Mikaela Millslagle. The Beavers (14-20) opened the seventh with consecutive singles from Jordon Pilcher and Sam Engleman. Lesa Turnquist to right chased home Pilcher with the tying run, leading to Winter’s heroics.
“It was a good hard-fought game,” Winter said. “I’m excited for (Saturday) and Sunday, hopefully.”
Engleman had two hits and Turnquist and Millslagle each drove in two apiece for Buena Vista, who will play the winner of Central and Dubuque in a consolation game at 2 p.m.
Luther swept Coe in Decorah on April 12. Hartl said the matchup promises an exciting contest.
“I think we play a similar style as Coe,” Hartl said. “I think it will be a really good ballgame.”
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