SALEM, Va. – The No. 4 Salisbury University softball team has a shot at a bit of redemption on Friday night, as the Sea Gulls will take on the two-time defending national champion Tufts University Jumbos in a winner's bracket game of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., at the Moyer Sports Complex.
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How we got here
After running undefeated through the regional and super regional rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Sea Gulls arrived at the NCAA championship and fell behind in a game for just the second time in more than a month. A second-inning home run put DePauw University up 1-0, but the Gulls would tie the contest in the third inning on Paige Knussman's single, bringing home Katie Sebbane. And in the sixth, Kim Dorsey drove home Angela Malgieri with a single to left field for the 2-1 lead. Senior Rachel Johnson earned the win, striking out seven along the way.
How they got here
The Jumbos enter Friday's game with an unblemished 47-0 record in 2015. Tufts has given up 52 runs this season, with five of them coming in their postseason run to get to Salem, winning a pair of 3-1 games in the regional and claiming a 3-2 win, in nine innings, in the regional final against Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the super regional, against Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Jumbos won the two games by a combined score of 14-1. On Thursday, Tufts topped Alma College, 3-0, scoring all three runs in the third inning, on two hits and an error.
The entire series spans just three games, but they made up the best-of-three finals in the 2014 NCAA softball championship, and it was a thrilling close to the year, with the Jumbos claiming the second of their back-to-back titles. Salisbury won the opener in the 2014 series, 2-1, with Knussman registering a 3-for-3 day including a double and a home run. The second game went scoreless into extra innings, and lasted to the 14th inning before the Jumbos put up six runs for the 6-0 win. Tufts would come back the next day with another 6-0 win to earn the title.
Beating of the best
In order to have a new national champion, someone will have to figure out Tufts pitcher Allyson Fournier. The senior, who was named a first-team All-American on Wednesday night, shutout Alma on Thursday and has allowed just three earned runs in 182 2/3 innings this year for a 0.11 earned-run average.
The winner of Friday's game will have Saturday off before needing just one more win, on Sunday, to advance to the best-of-three championship series. The losing team will cross to the other side of the bracket for a game on Saturday at 4 p.m., against Kean University, which eliminated Alfred University on Friday morning.