Erin Ruest came up big once again for Salisbury as her two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Sea Gulls all the runs they would need to move into the championship game against St. Thomas with a 3-1 win over Chapman Monday afternoon.
"We're really happy to be in the first of the championship games," Salisbury head coach Margie Knight said. "We played really good defense. Kristen (Wells) made a big play up the middle to stop them from scoring in the third. We also had some clutch hits when we needed it. We're pleased to be where we are, and the players are ready to go."
A day removed from eliminating Muskingum with a walk-off home run and crossing the plate with the winning run against Ithaca, Ruest, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored, capped the rally as she launched a 1-2 pitch over the center field wall to also score Serena Fleming, who reached via a single.
"I had a rough game against St. Thomas the other day," Ruest said. "That night I thought about the adjustments I needed to make. I made them, and it's working out for me. My teammates are really stepping up and getting on base, and our defense has really kept us in games."
Kristen Wells shut the door on Chapman in the seventh as she picked up the win in relief of Lacey Lister. Wells went the final two and two thirds, giving up just one hit out of the 12 batters she faced.
"Kristen is a good pitcher," Knight said. "She's a good drop ball pitcher. She works well under pressure. She's cool, calm and collected on the mound."
Lister was solid through the opening four frames, but she was unable to work out of the fifth as she gave up a home run to Jill Jeranko to tie the game at 1-1.
"I just wanted to hit the ball," Jeranko said. "I haven't been feeling it all weekend, and I knew that this was it, so I had to do something."
Jennifer Winford, who had been stellar throughout the tournament in relief work, earned the start and suffered the loss as she allowed three runs on five hits over six innings.
The Sea Gulls jumped on top in the bottom of the first as Kristy Shaffer led off with a double. After a Fleming sacrifice moved her to third, Shaffer scored on a wild pitch.
Chapman had its chances to win the game, but the Panthers were unable to deliver clutch hits as 13 runners were left on base. The Panthers left the bases loaded in the second and third innings, and they had a runner in scoring position in every inning by two during the contest.
"Seven hits and 13 runners left on," Chapman head coach Janet Lloyd said. "We definitely had our chances to win the game. I thought we played well enough to win, but you just can't leave 13 runners on in a big game like that."
Salisbury will turn around to face St. Thomas in the national championship game Monday afternoon. A victory by the Sea Gulls in Monday's championship game will force a deciding game Tuesday at 11 a.m.
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