A venture into uncharted territory for the Lady Miner softball team started on a cold Easter weekend afternoon and finally put the program on the national map.
The Lady Miners earned their first berth to the NCAA regional tournament this spring, beginning with a run which began with an April 7 doubleheader sweep over No. 7-ranked Lewis on a brisk day with temperatures in the low 30s. After ending three seasons with strong records but no post-season berths to show for it, UMR’s eight-game winning streak sparked a surge that finally ended in the second weekend of May at the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional.
That streak propelled UMR into third place in the Great Lakes Valley Conference standings. A day after the streak was halted, the Lady Miners split a twinbill with eventual national champion Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, handing the Cougars their worst – and as it turned out, last – loss of the season in the nightcap.
A strong offensive attack pushed the Lady Miners to new heights this season. UMR hit .307 as a team with a school-record 42 home runs, 97 doubles and 261 runs scored on the year to finish third in the GLVC Tournament. UMR won its opening round game over host Lewis University in the regional, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and holding on for a 5-4 win, before dropping its next two games to Ferris State and Grand Valley State in 13 innings.
Several Lady Miners were rewarded for their play in their 29-18 campaign. Jen O’Hara was an honorable mention selection by the GLVC at pitcher, while outfielders Emily Tucker and Ashley Winter were two of three Lady Miners selected to the all-conference first team. Tucker also made the all-region second team and Winter became one of two All-America selections from UMR.
The other All-America selection was Kandi Wieberg, who became the most decorated player in Lady Miner history during the 2007 season. The junior second baseman earned two All-America awards, two all-region selections and was named GLVC “Player of the Year” after batting .402 with a team-high 12 home runs and 39 runs batted in during the year.
As UMR’s leadoff hitter, Wieberg also led the GLVC in doubles (21), total bases (127) and slugging percentage (.751), while ranking second in runs scored (46), hits (68) and home runs. She ranked among the top five in the GLVC in nine categories and was sixth nationally in doubles per game. She earned additional honors as an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America selection and as the GLVC’s “Scholar-Athlete of the Year” recipient.