SALEM, Va. – Senior Hannah Mills provided a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the first inning to punch the No. 1 Salisbury University softball team's ticket to Eau Claire, Wisc., on Monday morning in the Salem, Va., NCAA Regional. The two runs would prove all the Sea Gulls would need to advance, but a four-run sixth inning and two-run seventh gave SU the 8-0 win over Piedmont College to advance to the program's seventh World Series.
The Sea Gulls (39-2) were the visitors in the contest and started the game the same as they did the previous day against Piedmont with early two runs. Senior Michelle Gravdahl reached first with a single to shortstop, beating out the throw to put a runner on with two outs before Mills delivered her 10th homer of the season, a bomb to center field.
Piedmont (34-10) had its chances to tie the game, putting runners on in every inning except the seventh, but the SU defense and sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson were able to strand runners on the bags to pick up their second shutout of the regional.
In the bottom of the third, Salisbury picked up two quick outs followed by a Lion single and walk to put two runners on base. A groundout to freshman Katie Sebbane ended the scoring threat, as the Sea Gulls headed into the fourth.
It was not until the sixth inning that the Gulls' bats caught fire, scoring four runs off four hits. Senior Sarah Alpaugh led off the inning with a single to center field before Gravdahl was walked and Mills reached first with a single to right field to load the bases. Freshman Paige Knussman drove a shot to right field for two RBIs and a 4-0 edge over the Lions. Two batters later, senior Lindsay McCabe hit a sharp grounder to shortstop and beat the throw to first while Mills came home. Mills went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Junior Harley Hill would collect for the final RBI of the inning with a single through the right side.
Johnson kept control in the circle, going all seven innings for the maroon and gold. She earned her 26th win with three strikeouts, three walks and five hits.
SU earned its final runs of the game off the bats of McCabe and senior Carly Read in the seventh.
With the win, Salisbury moves on to the World Series and will face the State University of New York at Cortland on Friday at 12 p.m., eastern time. The Red Dragons defeated Lebanon Valley College in the Ithaca, N.Y., Regional final on Monday, 7-0.
Johnson collected all-tournament honors as the tournament's most valuable player while three other Sea Gulls joined her. Gravdahl, Mills and Hill were also named to the all-tournament team.