Softball clinches regular season title

Elaine Heflin

Junior Elaine Heflin picked up her fifth complete-game shutout. Photo: Steve Woltmann

The softball team (32-16, 18-5 Horizon League) captured its second consecutive and 15th Horizon League regular season crown Saturday with a 1-0 shutout victory over Oakland (13-31, 8-14 Horizon League) in the series finale at the Oakland Softball Field.

The championships are first back-to-back titles for the Flames since the 2005 and 2006 campaigns.

UIC will host for the 2016 Horizon League Tournament, set for Wednesday through Saturday at Flames Field. With the No. 1 seed, the Flames will face the winner of the No. 4 and No. 5 seeded game at noon Thursday.

The win presented several notables for the UIC softball program. The 18 league wins is the most conference wins in program history, the 32-16 record is the best regular-season finish since 2005, and 16 losses is the fewest since 1999, when the team had just 15.

“We are so proud of this group for their persistence over the course of the season,” said head coach Michelle Venturella, who holds her best record in eight seasons under the direction of the program.

“This team has continued to grow together and has come through time and time again. Everyone contributed in some way and that’s what makes this special. Our fans have been amazing following us all over the country to support the team. We are excited to play at home for them and everyone at UIC.”

The Flames had five hits Saturday from junior Kaleigh Nagle (2), seniors LaRi Mitchell and Laura Swan, and freshman Lexi Watts. Watts reached base an additional time off a walk.

Junior Elaine Heflin picked up her fifth complete-game shutout and second of the Oakland series as she won her 18th game with five strikeouts and just three hits allowed.

UIC left a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings with a walk from Watts and singles by Nagle and Mitchell. Watts and Mitchell each swiped a base, bringing their season totals to 36 and 27. With Mitchell’s swipe, she moves into second in program history for most steals in a single season behind Watts.

After being held off base in the fourth and fifth, Watts came up with a one-out single in the sixth, and Swan followed with another single. On the next play, Nagle singled and Oakland committed an error on the play that allowed Watts to come around the bases and clinch the game.


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