COLUMBUS, Ga. – After suffering a loss during its opening game of the NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic and barely qualifying to participate in the eight-team Gold bracket as the No. 8-seed, No. 11 Trine rallied for five consecutive victories to claim the tournament’s overall title with a 5-4 victory over Claremont-Mudd Scripps on Sun., March 10, at the South Commons Complex in Columbus, Ga.
The Thunder completed their impressive run with a stirring rally in the title contest, battling back from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to claim a walk-off victory.
“This year we came in really hungry after not getting to the world series like we thought we should have last year,” Trine head coach Donnie Danklefsen said. “We just came into this year focused and trying our best to get some exposure by playing the best teams we could early on in the season. We didn’t expect to win this tournament, but we knew we could play with these teams. We were excited to be outside for the first time this weekend to see what we could do. Obviously, we have a really good group of kids that don’t ever give up.”
Following a two-RBI triple from Trine sophomore Carly Searles that dead-locked the match-up at 4-4 in the seventh, rookie Kaitlyn Clark, on her way to being named the event’s “Most Valuable Player” after hitting .522 (12-for-23) during the tournament, completed her squad’s stirring comeback with a clutch, RBI-base knock back through the middle of the infield. Thunder senior Andi Gasco was chosen as the NFCA DIII Leadoff Classic’s “Most Valuable Pitcher” after posting a pair of victories, including a complete-game effort against Claremont, while posting a .353 (6-for-17) mark at the dish with two HR’s and a team-leading nine RBIs.
The top seedings held true in the other brackets as No. 4 Emory and tied-No. 25 Washington University (Missouri) won the Silver and Bronze divisions, respectively.
Emory entered the playoff round as the top-seed in the Silver division and never faltered on the way to its title. Following a razor-thin, 2-1 victory on Saturday evening over Gustavus Adolphus, the Eagles squeaked by Piedmont in eight innings, 2-1, before shutting out Kean in the Silver Championship Game, 6-0.
After fighting off a tough challenge from No. 17 Ohio Northern (5-4) during its Bronze opener, Washington University raced past Methodist (9-5) and No. 23 SUNY Cortland (9-5) to claim its crown.
In the Copper division four-team round-robin, No. 22 Ithaca, Neumann and Husson each recorded identical, 2-1 overall records, while Hiram finished at 0-3.
For more information, including a full wrap-up of tournament action with updated brackets, please visit this link.