Lacey Lister is no stranger to big pitching performances in the national tournament. The three-time Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division III All-American came up big once again as she hurled a complete-game, four-hit shutout to lead fourth-seeded Salisbury to a 3-0 win over fifth-seeded Alma at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship in Raleigh, N.C.
The Sea Gulls, who have won 23 of their last 24 games, got big outings at the plate from Serena Fleming and Erin Ruest, who combined to go 3-for-6 with an RBI and a run scored out of the two and three spots in the lineup.
"Serena's speed keeps opponents off balance, and she's becoming more and more confident with her at-bats," Salisbury head coach Margie Knight said. "Erin has been lighting it up all season, and she has been on fire during the post-season."
Salisbury (41-4) gave Lister all the offensive help she would need with a pair of runs in the third. Fleming got the offense started with a one-out single, and she was scored by Ruest's double to center. Following a Leslie White bunt that went for a base hit, pinch runner Megan Ellzy advanced to third and scored on a close play at the plate following a White steal of second.
The second-ranked Sea Gulls added another run in the fourth as Whitney Schrader singled and later scored on a passed ball.
Alma had a chance to jump on top early as freshman Amy Gaudard, who was 3-for-3 at the plate, doubled with one away. Lister stepped up, however, and retired the side with a pair of strikeouts to get out of the jam.
"We executed well on defense today and kept Alma off the bases," Knight said. "Lacey did a good job keeping them off balance. That has been our forte against strong hitting teams this season. Lacey knows how to rise to the occasion. This is our third year with her as one of the aces on our staff. She pitched great, and Kim Rementer called a great game behind the plate."
"I thought I came out not as focused in the early innings as I was at the end of the game," Lister said. "Once we got a run or two, I got a lot more focused and just did what I had to do. I knew my defense was behind me all the way."
Melissa Tavidian took the loss for Alma (32-9), giving up three runs, two earned, on seven hits in five innings.
"We have our backs to the wall. It was a tough game," Alma head coach Denny Griffin said. "We've been in the loser's bracket before and come back and finished third. We can do it again; we just have to come out and beat Williams tomorrow."
The Scots face-off with Williams in an elimination game at 11 a.m. Saturday. Salisbury will take on top seed St. Thomas Saturday at 4 p.m.