Salem, Va. — The 2004 NCAA Division III National Championship started with two extra-inning games, and the trend continued in Saturday’s first game. Kristy Smith’s sacrifice fly to left scored Sandra Burns with the winning run as Chapman eliminated Alma 7-6 in a 15-inning marathon that lasted just over four hours. 

The game tied for the second-longest contest in championship history, as Wisconsin Eau-Claire knocked off Roanoke 3-2 in 15 innings here in Salem at the 2000 championship. Alma holds the record for the longest game in the tournament’s history, a 16-inning loss to Central (Iowa) at the 1995 tournament. 

Meredith Cipolla led off the second with a double over centerfielder Mary Pietsch’s head, and she advanced to third on a Melissa Simerlink (2-for-6, two RBIs) ground ball to second base that Colleen Trybus was unable to handle. Katherine Searing then laid down a bunt, and Scot catcher Erin Carson slipped and was unable to get Simerlink, who slid in to the plate just ahead of the tag. 

Alma answered to take the lead with four runs in the bottom half of the third. Back to back singles by Erin Carson (4-for-7) and Katie Eustice put runners in scoring position with one out, and Colleen Trybus (4-for-6, two RBIs) singled to score Anne Westerman, pinch-running for Carson, and put the Scots on the board. 

Laura Rochon then laced a base hit to plate Eustice and give Alma the lead. They extended the lead to 4-1 via a pair of wild pitches by Erin Bryant, who entered in relief of starter Cassie Dunn. 

Both teams utilized three pitchers in the contest, with Marissa Becerra picking up the win for Chapman (36-10), going eight and two-thirds and allowing no runs on nine hits. 

Alma’s Leigh Ann LaFave suffered the loss. She pitched seven and two-thirds and gave up the winning run and five hits. Scots starter Melissa Tavidian pitched the first six and two-thirds and was struck for six runs, three earned, on eight hits. 

Tavidian held Chapman’s bats in check until the sixth when Keely Starr led off with a bunt single and later scored on a Brittany Ziegler (2-for-6, two RBIs) single to the fence in left center that cut the Alma lead to 4-2. Meredith Cipolla then loaded the bases with a single up the middle with one out in the inning. Simmerlink, the next hitter, then erased the Alma lead with a two-run double to right center. 

Errors by shortstop Stephanie Smith and Trybus put runners at the corners for Chapman with one out. Kailee Roeser hit a ground ball to short, but Allison Lewis slid under the tag at the plate to put Chapman on top 5-4. Ziegler continued to hurt the Scots as she laced a single up the middle to plate Starr and put the Panthers up two. 

A single to lead off the seventh inning by Megan Colligan got a late rally started for the Scots. After Megan Knochel reached on fielder’s choice, Carson delivered a grounder to short that Ziegler couldn’t handle. Eustice made Chapman pay for the mistake, as she delivered an RBI single to cut the Panthers’ lead to a single run. 

Trybus tied the game back up as she hit a flare single to shallow right field that scored Carson to tie the game at 6-6, but Alma left the lead run at third to send the game into extra frames. 

Both defenses dominated until the 15th inning when Sandra Burns reached on a one-out single and advanced to third via a throwing error by Alma first baseman Lindsay Powers and a single by Ashlie Vohs. Smith put the Panthers up for good with a sacrifice fly to left that plated Burns. 

Chapman will face the loser of Saturday’s nightcap between Muskingum and St. Thomas Sunday at 2:30 p.m. EDT. 

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