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NCAA Division III Championship: Day Four

NCAA DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP
GELEIN FIELD, EAU CLARE, WISCONSIN

Ordinarily when a team sets an NCAA Division III record for consecutive wins it's a big story in itself. But for Muskingum College, the record 34th consecutive win happened to be in the Division III championship game, 4-1 over Central College. The Muskies, who swept through the tournament with a 4-0 record, essentially won the game in the fourth inning on back-to-back home runs by Shelli Hanson (a two-run shot) and, on the very next pitch, by Jennifer Shay. Suddenly, on two pitches, Muskingum had broken a 0-0 tie to take a 3-0 lead. Central came back to score a run in the top of the fifth on Beth Peterson's sacrifice fly. But Muskingum avenged that run in the bottom of the fifth, on Mandi Carnes' RBI double.

MUSKINGUM COACH DONNA NEWBERRY on how her team continued to play at a championship level despite the death of assistant coach John Wells on Friday: "Our theme all year has been 'stay in the present'. Everyone (on the team) knew that, but to be able to do it is another thing."

NEWBERRY on the back-to-back home runs: "That's about the fourth or fifth time we've done that this year. But this time, it was huge, coming in the championship. Our timing couldn't have been better."

NEWBERRY on how her team will spend the first few days back in New Concord, Ohio, the home of Muskingum College: "the funeral for John will be on Wednesday, and we'll all be involved in that. Then, we'll get back to celebrating."

MUSKINGUM'S SHELLI MANSON: on her two-run home run that broke a 0-0 tie in the fourth ininng: "I don't remember the pitch, I just heard it come off the bat. I hoped it would go out. It was big. It let us relax a little and get into a groove."

MUSKINGUM PITCHER DANI KEIFFER who pitched every inning of Muskingum's four tournament games: "I credit my defense. They made all the plays. This is a dream come true. I'm still in shock. It's just unbelievable. It's a dedication for John (Wells)."

CENTRAL COACH GEORGE WARES: "When you win that many in a row (34), you're doing a lot of things right. I thought our players competed. We had a chance to score a run or two early, but we hit some balls right at people."

WARES, who has guided Central to three national championships and has won more postseason games than any active Division III head softball coach, on the experience of competing in the national tournament: "Somebody asked me if I had the choice of coming here 10 more times and finishing second or third every time, or coming here just one more time and winning it all, I'd take the 10 more times even if we never won one. It's such a great experience."

CENTRAL'S ANNIE VAN WETZINGA: "I thought we were fired up all day. We hit the ball pretty good in the second game, but not many of them fell."

CENTRAL'S MOLLY PARROTT: "I'm just disappointed for our seniors. Our goal all year was to win the national title, but we just fell short. We had a couple of opportunities early, but we just couldn't get things to fall our way."

Central once again employed its "small ball" strategy to defeat Whteaton 5-1 and clinch a spot in this afternoon's championship game against Muskingum. Only two of Central's seven hits left the infield; the Dutch beat out two bunts and legged out three infield hits while stealing three bases and taking advantage of two Wheaton errors. Central scored first, breaking through with two runs in the fourth inning. With one out, Denise Barnard reached base on an infield hit and Mandy Jens followed with a sacrifice attempt that turned into a bunt single that advanced Barnard to second. All-American catcher Annie Van Wetzinga followed with a sharp single to left that scored Barnard and Kelly Oliver's infield groundout plated Jens. Central padded its lead with a three-run sixth. Molly Parrott led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Barnard. Jens reached base on a bunt single and Parrott dashed home from second with Jens taking second on the throw home. Van Wetzinga was hit by a pitch and Jens and Van Wetzinga were sacrificed to third and second respectively by Oliver. Jens then scored on Voight's single and Van Wetzinga came home at the end of a double steal. Wheaton spoiled Libby Hysell's shutout bid with a run in the seventh, scoring on a hit and two Central errors.