HOUSTON – It was the fourth extra-innings contest of this year’s Championship and, like its predecessors, went well into double-figures in innings. In the end, Emporia State sealed the 2-1 victory in the bottom of the 13th inning.
Emporia State (48-16) advances to face Humboldt State in the NCAA Championship Game this afternoon at 3:30 pm CDT. St. Edward’s, the South Central Regional champion, concludes its season with a record of 53-17.
The Hornets started quickly offensively as leadoff hitter Jessie Wiard put down a bunt single to open the first inning. A successful sacrifice by second baseman Angela Mahan advanced Wiard to second and she went to third on a single to left by first baseman Jennifer Dace. Pinch runner Nicole Bergley stole second to put a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Miranda Campbell then connected on a single to deep centerfield, scoring Wiard before Bergley was thrown out at the plate, leaving Emporia State up 1-0 after one inning of play.
With two outs and two strikes in the top of the seventh inning. St. Edward’s came back to life. First baseman Stacy Giles clubbed her fourth home run of the year and second of the tournament to deep left field, tying the score at 1-1.
St. Edward’s led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a bunt single from leadoff hitter Lexi Stephens, who was sacrificed to second by shortstop Mandy Phillips. Right fielder Lisa Paul was hit by a pitch to put a second player on the basepaths with one out for the Hilltoppers, but they were unable to score, sending the game to the bottom of the eighth.
A similar situation developed in the top of the 10th inning when Stephens led off with a bunt single, stole second and Paul was hit by a pitch to give the Hilltoppers two on with one out and centerfielder Kristen Lozano at the plate, but once again St. Edward’s failed to score.
The tie was broken in the bottom of the 13th inning when Hornets centerfielder Jenna Potter knocked a ground rule double to right field to lead off the inning. Wiard then sacrificed Potter over to third base and Angela Mahan connected on a slow-rolling grounder down the first base line that was just enough to give Potter time to score the walk-off run.
Megan Dennis pitched one inning to earn the win for Emporia State. She retired the three batters she faced on four pitches and improves to 12-6 on the season. She relieved Samantha Sheeley who pitched 12 innings allowing seven hits and striking out 10. Diana Cezeaux took the loss for St. Ed’s, falling to 25-9 on the season. She pitched the final 8.2 innings of the game, allowing four hits and striking out six. She relieved Robin Becker, who pitched 3.2 innings and allowed one run.