SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio – The West Liberty University softball team clinched its second straight Mountain East Conference North Division championship here Saturday by splitting a doubleheader at Notre Dame (Ohio).

    Coach Herb Minch’s Hilltoppers (29-13, 23-9) locked up the division title in style with a 12-0 mercy rule win in the first game. The Falcons (15-25, 14-18) salvaged the split with a 3-2 nod in the finale.

    In the opener, Kat Donzella homered, doubled and drove in three runs all in the first inning to fuel a 7-run explosion for the Black and Gold. The Hilltopper bats weren’t finished as they racked up five more runs in the top of the fifth in rolling to the five-inning mercy rule win.

    Makenzie Amend struck out nine batters over the first four frames to earn the division-clinching win with Taylor Bonnett coming on in the fifth to get the last three outs.

    Annie Paterson and Riley Conkle backed Donzella in leading a 16-hit barrage. Paterson drove in three runs with a homer and two singles while Conkle finished with a double, two singles and two RBIs. Katelynn Blair chased home two runs with a double and a single, Katie Beeman had two singles and an RBI, Sidney Little singled twice and Conner Assif singled and drove in a run.

    The second game was decided by the long ball. In the bottom of the second, McKenzie Zigmont and Emily Marsh followed a one-out single by pitcher Taylor Olson with back-to-back home runs for a quick 3-0 Notre Dame lead. The Falcons managed only one more hit the rest of the way but the damage had been done.

    Olson surrendered back-to-back home runs of her own to West Liberty’s Beeman and Paterson in the fourth inning but didn’t allow another hit until a two-out double by Conkle in the top of the seventh. Olson struck out the next batter to end the game.

    As the No. 1 seed from the North Division, West Liberty will open defense of its 2019 MEC Tournament championship Friday at 2:30 p.m. when it takes on the No. 4 seed from the South Division on opening day of the 2021 MEC Tournament in Salem, Va.

    The Hilltoppers will close out their regular season slate at home on Sunday with a 1 p.m. non-conference doubleheader against Shepherd.