Betsie Collins may not have had to throw a lot this season for Gustavus Adolphus College’s three-headed pitching staff but, when the staff became thin and coach Jeff Annis needed a workhorse for Saturday’s conference tournament, the Waseca graduate came through in a big way.

Collins threw 12⁄3 innings of shutout relief in Saturday’s first-round loss to Bethel before pitching two complete-game victories to lift the Gusties into the championship round of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament at Caswell Park. For the day, Collins pitched just under 14 innings, allowed eight hits, walked five, struck out 17 and had an ERA of 1.02.

“We knew she was (physically) capable,” Annis said after the final game of the day. “We needed somebody to take charge and she wanted the ball. She’s going to get the ball (today), too.”

The Gusties took a hit earlier in the week when it was decided that junior Erin Truebenbach would not pitch during the tournament due to back problems that have plagued her all season. That left seniors Collins and Callie Nelsen to handle the pitching duties.

Nelsen got the nod in Game 1, but Bethel scored four runs through the first five-plus innings, and she was replaced by Collins. Collins was perfect in her abbreviated relief stint, but the Gustavus offense never got going and the Royals prevailed with a 4-2 triumph. Lisa Klass homered in the losing effort.

 In Game 2, Collins continued throwing, and the Gusties parlayed seven hits, two walks and two St. Olaf errors into a 5-2 victory. Jenna Johnson and MacKenzie Dalton drove in two runs apiece for Gustavus. Collins allowed her only two runs of the day during her seven-inning performance.

The win put the Gusties into the lower-bracket finals where they avenged their first-round loss with an 8-0 shutout of Bethel in five innings. Klass went 3 for 3, while Emily Wendorff and Jesse Pelzel added two hits apiece. Wendorff, Jenny Ewert and Johnson each had doubles.

Wendorff, who led the Gusties in hitting this season (.391, minimum 80 at-bats), finished 5 for 9 on the day.

“We didn’t get our bats going in that first game but we were confident we would come back,” Wendorff said. “We hit a lot better these last two games.”

Collins fired a five-inning, two-hit shutout to improve her record to 14-5. As she iced down her right shoulder after the game, the senior said she was feeling pretty good.

“I still had a lot left,” she said. “There was a point in that second game when I started feeling a little tired, but that didn’t last long. I felt strong all the way through this last game.”

The win over Bethel was the Gusties’ 30th win of the season. It marks five straight years under Annis that Gustavus has won at least 30 games.

Gustavus (30-12) will take on St. Thomas in today’s championship round beginning at 11 a.m. Gustavus must win twice to win the tournament.

When asked if she wanted the ball against the Tommies, Collins never hesitated: “Definitely. This is why you play college softball — for games like this.”

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