OKLAHOMA CITY – On day three, No. 6 North Georgia and No. 21 California (Pa.) survived and advanced their way to the semifinals of 2015 NCAA Division II Championship, on a rainy Saturday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Nighthawks (51-8) and Vulcans (43-12) walked off with eight-inning wins over St. Mary’s and Central Missouri in the morning. They carried the momentum into their second games, earning wins over Adelphi and Indianapolis, respectively.
The semifinals begin tomorrow, May 24 at 12:00 p.m. CT with North Georgia taking on Shorter in a battle of Georgia programs separated by just 91 miles and is followed by California Pa. and Dixie State at 2:30 p.m. The Vulcans and Red Storm met on the opening day with Dixie State earning a 1-0 win.
G7 – No. 6 North Georgia 2, No. 7 St. Mary’s (8)
North Georgia edged St. Mary’s, 2-1 in eight innings. The winning run came in after a bloop double by Meagan May, followed by a miscue in the outfield allowing Taylor Anne Merritt to scoot home with the winning run.
After three scoreless frames, the teams traded runs in the fourth inning. The Rattlers took the lead in the top half on a pinch-hit RBI single by Laura Benavidez, plating pinch runner Hannah Michel with the first run of the game.
North Georgia shortstop Tiffanie Burns didn’t let the lead last long blasting a solo home run to leftfield and evening the score at 1-1.
Schutt Sports NFCA Player of the Year, Courtney Poole, went the distance for the Nighthawks. She scattered five hits, struck out eight and walked one to improve to 43-4.
NFCA Second-Team All-American Vianna Gutierrez Touchtone suffered the tough defeat. She allowed only one earned run on three hits with five punchouts and three walks. Gutierrez Touchtone, a top-10 finalist for NFCA Player of the Year, finished out a fantastic senior season with a 28-7 mark in the circle.
The Nighthawks move on to face Adelphi in another elimination game. The Rattlers’ (48-12) season comes to a close with Heartland Conference and South Central Region titles.
G8 – No. 21 California (Pa.) 7, No. 20 Central Missouri 6 (8)
Heading to the bottom of the fifth trailing 6-0 and its NFCA All-American pitcher pulled from the game, California (Pa.) did not give up.
A two-out three run rally in the seventh, a three-inning shutout relief effort from Meghan Uher and a two-out walk-off single by Emily Price were three of the highlights that enabled the Vulcans to come back and defeat Central Missouri, 7-6 in eight innings and advance to a secodn elimination game against Indianapolis.
Entering the bottom of the fifth, the Vulcans responded with a three-spot after the Jennies had just doubled the lead to 6-0. California scored a run in three straight at bats, starting with a RBI single by Kaity Finley and followed by a RBI double from Emily Price. After a UCM (49-16) pitching change, Lindsay Reicoff sent a deep fly to center for the third run of the inning and making it a 6-3 deficit
Cal sent the game to extras with a three-run, two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and a runners on the corners, Natalya Smarra, Jacquelin Fowler and Hailey Wilson recorded RBI singles to even the game at 6-6, setting up the walk-off win.
Junior Alex Sagle (28-5) picked up the win after reentering in the eighth and getting out of a jam. However, it was the job of Uher that kept UCM’s bats silent and off the scoreboard. She went three innings, allowed just two base runners on singles and struck out one.
Prince was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Smarra added two hits, while Erica Vallecorsa and Courtney Sinclair each crossed the dish twice.
A three-run third, highlighted by a two-RBI single by Lauren Mabe gave Central Missouri an early 3-0 lead. UCM doubled its lead to 6-0 with three-run fifth, courtesy of back-to-back home runs by Jakki Prater and Mabe. Prater’s two-run shot was a blast to leftcenter and it was followed by Mabe’s no-doubter to center.
Lindsey Dawson, Prater and Mabe all had two hits for the Jennies. Mabe knocked in three, Prater recorded two RBI and Dawson scored twice. The Jennies season comes to an end in which they claimed both the MIAA tournament and Central Region championships.
G9 – No. 6 North Georgia 8, Adelphi 0 (5)
North Georgia’s offense came alive when in an 8-0 five-inning victory over Adelphi in an elimination game. The Nighthawks recorded a tournament-best nine hits after generating three in the first two games.
Tiffanie Burns paced the offensive barrage going, 2-for-3 with her second home run of the day, three RBI and two runs scored. Kim McMillan also went 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and two runs.
Courtney Poole tossed a two-hit complete game shutout for UNG. She improved to 44-4 by striking out seven and not walking a batter.
Mary O’Reilly and Krista King singled for the Panthers (31-21), who concluded their season with a East Region title and first trip to the NCAA Championship.
G10 – No. 21 California (Pa.) 2, No. 10 Indianapolis 1
Lindsay Reicoff’s two-run single in the third inning and Alex Sagl’s (pictured) complete game effort catapulted California (Pa.) into the semifinal of the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.
Sagl scattered eight hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter to improve to 29-5 after her second win of the day.
In the third, the Vulcans’ first two batters were retired on six pitches. However, a single by Courtney Sinclair and back-to-back walks loaded the bases and allowed Reicoff to come to bat. She poked a 1-1 pitch into right center for what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Sagl worked with runners on in almost every inning, but was able to get out of all but one unscathed. She stranded seven Greyhounds (48-15) and only allowed one hit with runners in scoring position, an RBI single by Jessie Noone in the sixth.
The Greyhounds were able to get the tying run on base with two outs in the seventh, but a liner to third was snagged by Natalya Smarra for the final out.
Indianapolis’ season comes to an end. GLVC runners up in the regular season and tournament, the Greyhounds rallied past No. 1 Missouri-St. Louis to claim the Midwest Region championship.
-- Image courtesy Richard T. Clifton