SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 2 Salisbury University softball team hopes to play two games on Sunday, needing to win both, against Haverford College on the final day of the Norfolk, Virginia regional of the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament. The first game of the day will begin with the first pitch at noon.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls dropped their first game of the regional on Friday to Haverford, but came back with a pair of wins on Saturday, ending the season of both No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan College and Saint Vincent College.
Against Virginia Wesleyan, Salisbury got all the offense it needed in the second inning for a 2-1 win. Sophomore LeAnne Collins had a two-run double in the frame to account for all of the scoring. Collins was the only Sea Gull with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 in the game. Annah Brittingham stifled the Virginia Wesleyan bats, allowing just two hits in the game, both coming in the third inning when the Marlins scored their lone run. Brittingham struck out seven and surrendered just two walks.
In the next elimination game, Salisbury topped Saint Vincent, scoring all five runs in the first two innings, with Collins and Molly Simpson each going 2-for-4. Simpson scored once and drove in two runs. Brooke Mizelle earned the complete-game win, allowing just four Bearcat hits and striking out seven of her own.
How they got here
Haverford has earned a pair of one-run wins to remain unbeaten at the regional. The Fords topped Salisbury on Friday, 1-0, getting their tally on a solo home run in the fourth inning. Salisbury had runners on base in four innings, but were unable to push one across.
On Saturday, Haverford topped Saint Vincent in the day's first game, 1-0, by scoring the game winner in the top of the seventh inning. The Fords had three base runners through the opening six innings, on two walks and an error, getting their only hit of the day in the seventh but not until after they had scored to take the lead on another Bearcat error.
The two wins put Haverford in the driver's seat, needing just one win today to claim the regional crown.
The Sea Gulls and Fords have met just twice, with Salisbury earning a 6-2 victory during an NCAA regional late in the 2006 season, and the Fords picking up the 1-0 win on Friday.
Scouting the Fords
Haverford has now won six-straight games in a tournament setting. After dropping the opener in the Centennial Conference tournament, the Fords won four straight for that title and then two this weekend. In the regular season, Haverford gave up just under 4.2 runs per game, during the postseason, the Fords have allowed just eight runs in seven games.
Sara Tauriello leads the pitching staff that ranks 83rd in the nation with a 2.63 ERA. Tauriello carries a 2.36 ERA and ranks 34th nationally, striking out just under eight batters per seven innings pitched.
Julia Blake leads the Haverford offense, batting .331, with Kaitlyn Guild joining her over .300, with a .312 batting average this year. Three Fords have hit at least five home runs, with Kristin Tatum blasting eight.
Facing the best in the nation
Haverford and Salisbury have combined to play 15 games against nationally-ranked opponents this season. The Fords have had six opportunities entering Sunday's first contest, going 1-5 against ranked opponents, while Salisbury is 6-3 against ranked opponents in 2016.
Climbing the program records
Three Sea Gulls have either broken into or continued to see their name rise in the program record book in 2016. With her 10 home runs this year, Kim Dorsey has climbed to No. 2 in the program's career record with 34 long balls. She also stands fourth in runs scored and eighth in career triples. Molly Simpson sits in a tie with Dorsey for career triples, as each has legged out seven three-baggers. Simpson is also on the cusp of the top 10 in RBI and home runs. Paige Knussman is second in career RBI with 190, just 12 behind April Harned (1998-2001), while also sitting in third in home runs, and sixth in hits.
Making her impact
Freshman pitcher Brooke Mizelle has stepped right into the circle this year and made an impact for the Sea Gulls. The Holland, Virginia native reached 100 innings pitched in her complete-game effort on Saturday against Saint Vincent, and the win was the 18th of the year. She is one of just seven Sea Gulls to reach 10 wins in their freshman year, and she is second all-time in that category, behind only Lacey Lister, the program's all-time wins leader, who was victorious 27 times her rookie year.
If Salisbury wins the first game today, the teams will turn around and play a winner-take-all contest this afternoon. One win for Haverford gives the Fords the title. The team to advance through Sunday's competition will advance to an NCAA super regional, against Messiah College, which won the Newport News, Virginia regional hosted by Christopher Newport University. The super regional is a best-of-three series on May 20 and 21.