SALEM, Va. — The top two teams in the NFCA Top 25 will meet for the Division III crown starting Monday, as top-ranked two-time reigning titlist Tufts will face No. 2 Texas-Tyler in the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Va.
Tufts, which will be seeking its Division III-record third title, defeated two-time national champion Linfield, 1-0, Sunday afternoon to win the right to again play for the crown. Texas-Tyler, meanwhile, scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to deal last year's NCAA runner-up Salisbury a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat and reach its first Championship Series in school history.
Game 1 is 1 p.m. ET Monday, with Game 2 to follow at 3:30. If necessary, a third winner-take-all game would be 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The (49-0) Jumbos notched their NCAA Division III-record 51st straight victory thanks to the one-hit pitching of four-time NFCA All-American Allyson Fournier (no walks, nine strikeouts) and an unearned run in the top of the sixth inning.
Fournier has not allowed a run and has surrendered just nine hits while striking out 29 over 21 innings in Salem. She recorded her 1,300th career strikeout in the fourth inning on Sunday.
In the sixth, pinch hitter Raina Galbiati reached on a fielding error and Samantha Siciliano (for whom she was batting) replaced her on the bases. Carrie Copacino sacrificed Siciliano to second, and Gracie Marshall's groundout moved Siciliano to third. Bri Keenan then singled up the middle to score Siciliano.
Coming off Saturday's five-inning no-hitter, Montana McNealy was brilliant in defeat, retiring the first 10 Tufts batters she faced and striking out nine in a complete-game three-hitter. Erin Carson's single in the first was the lone hit in the game for the (39-15) Wildcats.
Tufts is the only team among the eight that advanced to the NCAA Championship that hasn't committed an error in Salem.
Two-time NCAA titlist Linfield (2007 and 2011) was the team that knocked out the Jumbos out of the NCAA Championship en route to a runner-up finish in 2012, the year before Tufts' title run began. The Wildcats were also runner-up in 2010, when East Texas Baptist was the champion.
Texas-Tyler 3, Salisbury 2
Sunday's first game was set up for Salisbury to force a second elimination game between the two teams before the Patriots' powerful lineup rallied from two down against three-time All-American pitcher Rachel Johnson and the Sea Gulls in the final half inning.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Lexi Ackroyd walked, Kristin Lopez was hit by a pitch and replaced by Amanda Lopez before Hartnett singled to load the bases. After Whitney Burt reached on a fielder's choice that retired Ackroyd at home, Shelby Shelton singled in Lopez and Hartnett, and moved Burt to third. Jackie Mendez then singled to center to plate Burt with the winning run.
Salisbury was the first to break through on the scoreboard with two out in the top of the seventh on All-American Kim Dorsey's two-run single through the right side, that plated Katie Sebbane (walk) and Caitlin Lake (single).
The (37-8) Sea Gulls nearly took the lead with two outs the previous inning on Annah Brittingham's deep fly that Texas-Tyler center fielder Christa Hartnett jumped above the fence to grab for the third out.
Kelsie Batten scattered six hits and struck out five over 6.2 innings and Alaina Kissinger threw three pitches to get one out for the (50-3) Patriots, while Johnson (six hits, five strikeouts) was the hard-luck loser in a bid for her 100th career win.