Earlier Sunday afternoon Erin Ruest drove in the winning run for Salisbury. Eight hours later, Ruest was the one who crossed the plate with the winning run as Nichole Fuqua singled up the middle in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Salisbury a 3-2 win over Ithaca at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship.
"It was another exciting win for us in the last at-bat," Salisbury head coach Margie Knight said. "We hit in the clutch. Erin had a big at-bat, and Lacey (Lister) and Nichole had big hits."
"Anyone on our team could have had that hit," Fuqua said. "I stayed relaxed. There is a lot of pressure on the hitter, but I knew that all of my teammates were supporting me. We always have each other's backs."
With the win, Salisbury (43-5) moves into a showdown with Chapman Monday at noon with the winner going on to face St. Thomas in the national championship game at 2:30 p.m. Ithaca ends its season at 31-13.
"It was a great season with a young group who really matured over the season," Ithaca head coach Deb Pallozzi said. "We've battled back in the past. We didn't follow the scout. I knew we'd battle, and that might be unique for such a young group."
Ruest began the inning with a walk off Carly Myers, who, in relief of starter Nicole Cade, shut the door on Salisbury after the third inning. Leslie White moved Ruest to second base, and after Lister helped her own cause with a single up the middle, Fuqua delivered the game-winning hit that allowed Ruest to cross the plate with the winning run nearly two and a half hours after the first pitch.
"I was very relaxed up there," Lister said. "I knew if I was patient I'd get something to hit and I did."
Salisbury jumped on top 2-0 in the opening frame. Kristy Shaffer led off the frame as she reached on a bunt. After advancing on a wild pitch, she scored from second as Ruest continued her solid Sunday at the plate with a double to left center. Ruest capped the opening frame's scoring as she was plated by Meaghan Murphy's RBI single.
The Sea Gulls had a chance to expand the lead in the third. Serena Fleming reached on a bunt single and Ruest singled to center. After Murphy was intentionally walked to load the bases, the Bombers brought Carly Myers into the game in relief of starter Nicole Cade and she proceeded to strike out Fuqua and Kareem Falcon to end the bases-loaded threat.
Myers' ability to work out of the jam proved huge for Ithaca as it tied the game 2-2 with a run in the fourth and fifth innings. With one away in the fourth, Leigh Bonkowski continued a productive tournament with a double to right center. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Bonkowski scored on Kaitlyn Dulac's base hit.
The Bombers completed the rally in the fifth with two outs as Sara Coddington singled to center, stole second and scored on Hannah Shalett's ground ball that was mishandled by Kristy Shaffer.
After having the game tied up, Lister settled into the form she's shown all during the tournament, sitting down 15 of the last 18 batters she faced to pick up the win. Lister gave up two runs, one earned, with seven strikeouts on four hits in the complete-game outing.
"I did what I had to do," Lister said. "I didn't think I threw as well later on, but in the extra innings I thought I really started placing my pitches better."
Myers suffered the loss as she allowed one run on four hits in seven innings of relief work. Cade started the game and gave up two runs on five hits over two and a third innings.
Salisbury had the opportunity to win the game in the eighth, as Leslie White put the winning run at second with her double over the left fielder's head. The Sea Gulls went to intentionally walk Murphy, but a wild pitch allowed White to advance 60 feet away with the winning run. Pinch runner Megan Ellzy stole second, and Fuqua walked to load the bases for Falcon.
Falcon hit a ground ball to second and Jessica Stangarone's throw the plate was low, but Shalett picked the ball out of the dirt to record the out. Myers got pinch-hitter Tee Dronenburg to ground out to Stangarone to end Salisbury's second bases-loaded threat.
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