OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – In a scoreless game through seven innings, Amherst College plated four runs in the top of the eighth, and fended off a three-run rally by Trine University to help the Mammoths secure a 4-3 win over the Thunder in Thursday morning's game one of the NCAA Division III Championship at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.
With the win, Amherst has now won six straight games and advances to the winner's bracket of the NCAA Championship. The Mammoths (34-10) will take on the University of Texas at Tyler (45-4) at 7:30 p.m. EST (6:30 p.m. CST) on Friday, May 26. Trine (37-9) will face Virginia Wesleyan College (48-3) in an elimination game at 12 p.m. EST (11 a.m. CST) on Friday.
After seven complete innings of scoreless softball, Amherst struck for four runs in the top of the eighth inning. Lauren Tuiskula '17 led off the frame when she was hit by a pitch, and then moved to second on a free pass issued to Sammy Salustri '19. A bunt single by Kyra Naftel '19 loaded the bases for Kate Kopatic '20 who earned a hard-fought base-on-balls to send home the first run of the game. A foul out to left field by Alena Marovitz '17 to left field allowed Salustri to come home with Amherst's second run of the game before Ally Kido '18 later delivered a two-run single to center field scoring Andrea Sanders '20 and Scout Boynton '20. A walk to Annie McCluskey '20 loaded the bases again, but Kate Saupe, who entered in relief of Trine's Hannah Kampmann, forced an inning-ending ground out to keep the score at 4-0 in favor of the Mammoths.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Thunder's Michaela Hartline drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second when Claire Ryan was hit by a pitch. A ground out by Kaylee Fox pushed the runners ahead 60 feet for Carly Bachna who singled through the left side which drove both runners home. A wild pitch sent Bachna to second before Catherine Porter ripped an RBI single to left field to pull Trine to within one at 4-3. Amherst reliever Lorena Ukanwa entered for starter Gina Pagan '18, and after a wild pitch, forced Lainey McCue into a lineout to right center field. Amherst's Julia Turner '19 made a phenomenal diving grab on the play in right center keeping the Thunder from scoring the tying run. A bunt single by Erica Robles put runners on the corners with two outs, but a pop up to second base allowed the Mammoths to hang on for the thrilling victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Both starting pitchers were terrific in Thursday's opening contest. Pagan (23-4) earned the win tossing 7.1 innings and allowing three runs on five hits with four strikeouts.
- Pagan held a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and allowed just one runner to reach second through five innings, and one runner to reach third through seven innings before Trine rallied in the eighth.
- Ukanwa pitched the final two outs and earned her fifth save of the season.
- Offensively, Naftel, Marovitz and Kido each had two hits, while Kido also drove in a pair of runs.
- Danielle Ray (18-4) started for Trine and suffered the loss, tossing 7.1 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits. She added five strikeouts while Kampmann and Saupe registered an out each in relief.
- At the dish, Ryan, Bachna, Porter, McCue, Robles and Emily White each had a hit, while Bachna drove in a pair of runners.
- Neither team had an extra-base hit in the game, and both teams left nine runners on base.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Amherst now stands at 11-6 all-time in NCAA Tournament games and is two wins shy of tying the program's high water mark for wins in a single season of 36 set in 2012.
- UT-Tyler is the defending ational champion and has been ranked among the top five teams in the nation for much of this season. The Patriots have gone 6-0 in postseason play entering Friday's action and owns an overall record of 45-4.