An errant throw on a stolen base attempt with two outs in the sixth scored the deciding run as Ithaca eliminated Alma 5-4 Sunday afternoon at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship in Raleigh, N.C.
Alma jumped on top behind a three-run second inning. Amy Gaudard led off the frame with a single, and Megan Colligan followed with a towering two-run home run. After Ithaca picked up the first two outs of the inning, Melissa Tavidian registered her first of two hits on the day that advanced Anne Westerman, who walked, to second. Missy Morcom then delivered a single that scored Westerman to cap the three-run frame.
"We expected a close game when you get to this level of play," Alma head coach Denny Griffin said. "We came out smoking and got three early, but I knew Ithaca wouldn't quit. They scrap and fight, and that's the sign of a good team. They got some hits and some momentum, but our team didn't quit. We battled and battled and gave ourselves chances."
Ithaca answered in the home half of the inning with three runs of its own. Mel Chinigo started the rally with a lead-off single, and she advanced into scoring position with a throwing error by the third baseman. After a steal of third and a walk by Kaitlyn Dulac, Madeline Kraemer cut the Scots' lead to 3-2 with her two-run base hit. Erica Cutspec singled in the tying run, and a double play ball by Sara Coddington scored Cutspec with the go-ahed run.
"Answering in the bottom of the third was big for us," Ithaca head coach Deb Pallozzi said. "We weren't very sharp, either, and we noticed that their pitcher wasn't sharp. I had to shake them up a little bit in the huddle. We tried to start feeling sorry for ourselves, and I wouldn't let them do that. Chapman roared back on us last night, and we had to use that same intensity and come back. We put the ball in play and did the things we do. We made some things happen."
Alma tied the contest back up in the top of the fourth as a pair of singles from Westerman and Tavidian set the stage for Mary Pietsch. Pietsch delivered a base hit that scored Westerman with the run. With the chance to take the lead, Nicole Cade, who relieved starter Carly Myers in the third, worked out of the jam to keep the scored dead-locked at 4-4.
Both Tavidian and Cade settled in until the Bombers' half of the sixth. Ithaca got a leadoff walk from Dulac and pinch-hitter Stacy Pelesz advanced her with a single. With one out, Amanda Illinger reached on a fielder's choice to advance Pelesz to third. The Bombers attempted to steal second with Illinger, but the attempted pickoff sailed into center field, allowing Pelesz to score and give Ithaca a 5-4 edge they wouldn't relinquish.
After allowing the one run in the fourth, Cade settled in and picked up the win, going five innings while allowing a run on five hits with five strikeouts. Tavidian suffered the loss as she gave up all five runs, four earned, on seven hits in the complete six innings.
Ithaca advances to play Salisbury in an elimination contest Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m.