NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The No. 17 Salisbury University softball team took an early 2-0 lead against Ferrum College in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division III Softball Championship but saw the Panthers come from behind to claim the game, 5-2.
Salisbury (35-6) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning off senior pitcher Erika Brittingham's double to left-center field sending junior Michelle Gravdahl home from first base; Gravdahl reached on a Panther error.
Brittingham kept the Gulls ahead in the top of the second inning, striking out two Ferrum batters.
The Sea Gulls added to their lead in the second inning with two outs and two runners on. Junior Lindsay McCabe led off the inning with a single to right field, followed by classmate Carly Read's sacrifice bunt. Junior Chelsea Brooks was patient at the plate, taking a walk and putting runners on first and second base with sophomore Harley Hill in the box. Hill singled through the right side, scoring McCabe for SU's second run of the day.
Ferrum (36-12) started the third with a walk from Suzanne Plasters, who moved to second off a Kaitlyn Culler sacrifice bunt. The Gulls defense retired the next two batters to exit the inning run with the 2-0 lead.
Up two, Salisbury found itself with two Panther runners on first and second base and one out. Junior Hannah Mills made a run-saving play, diving to reach a hard skidding ball that looked as though it would get through the middle. The shortstop got the ball to second baseman Read in time for the force out, saving a run from heading home and the second out. With runners on the corner, Brittingham settled down in the circle and delivered the final out of the inning, her fourth strikeout on the day.
The Panthers made a pitching change in the bottom of the fourth that turned the tides. Rachel Shumaker took to the circle keeping the Gulls off the bags, giving the Panthers a chance to close the 2-0 gap. Ferrum put three unearned runs on the board to take the lead 3-2, after Salisbury committed two fielding errors in the top of the fifth inning.
"We have to give credit to Ferrum's pitching it was excellent, they are ranked seventh in the nation in ERA and kept the ball moving. We need to clean up our batting and defensive play in order to continue on," said Head Coach Margie Knight.
In the seventh inning, freshman Rachel Johnson relieved Brittingham who ended the day allowing four runs (three unearned) off five hits, four walks, and four strikeouts while going 2-for-3 at the plate with one RBI.
The Sea Gulls will now have to travel through the elimination bracket in order to get to their ultimate goal.
"We have been in this position before, of course we would have liked to have four wins, but we've traveled to the National Championship having fought our way through the elimination bracket before back in 2009, which our seniors we apart of, and we plan on playing through Monday," commented Knight.
Salisbury will play in an elimination game on Friday, May 11, against either Farmingdale State College or Christopher Newport University. The Sea Gulls are scheduled to take the field at 12 p.m.