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DIII Championship: Freshman Rhoads Leads Messiah into Championship

MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Freshman pitcher Jessica Rhoads tossed a one-hitter and struck out 19 batters as Messiah College beat Coe College 1-0 to advance to the championship round of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship at Montclair State University on Sunday. 

For the second time in as many days, Rhodes turned in stellar performances both on the mound and at the plate to lead Messiah (42-4), which is the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament at 3-0. 

Rhodes, who retired the first eight hitters she faced, allowed just three batters to reach base in the contest in improving her record to 27-1 on the season. The righthander, who threw a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 2-0 win over Gustavus Adolphus on Saturday night, retired the last 12 outs of the game on strikeouts. 

The 19 K’s by Rhodes was two shy of the NCAA Division III Championship record of 21 strikeouts in a seven-inning game, set by Jennifer Martinez of St. Joseph’s (L.I.) College against Bridgewater State in a first-round game at Providence, RI in 2008. Rhodes has now struck out 40 batters in 21 innings pitched in the tournament. 

The only runs of the game came in the top of the first inning. Rhodes, who was 2-for-2 at the plate, hit a one-out, two-run home run to center field, driving in freshman second baseman Abi Buchler, who had led off the game with a double to left center field and then advanced to third following a ground to second by sophomore centerfielder Rebekkah Funk. 

Coe (40-12) received a solid pitching performance of its own from freshman righthanded pitcher Ashlee Simon. Simon allowed just three hits in the game with just one strikeout and just one walk. The Kohawks never got a batter-runner past second base in the contest. 

The loss was the first for Coe in the double-elimination tournament.