EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Despite scoring the first run of the 2013 Division III Softball Championship, the No. 1 Salisbury University softball team fell in its opening game of the World Series. The Sea Gulls dropped their opening contest to the State University of New York at Cortland, 2-1, and will now have to battle through the losers' bracket, starting with a noon game tomorrow, Saturday, May 18.
"I felt that Cortland played very well today and earned a great win, and if we want to stay in this tournament a little longer we need to hit the ball a little better than we did today," Head Coach Margie Knight said following the game.
Salisbury (39-3) scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning to break open a scoreless contest, even though the Red Dragons had put runners on in every inning, including runners in scoring position in the third and fourth.
Cortland (33-15) jammed the bases in the fourth, with two outs, but a strikeout by sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson allowed the maroon and gold to exit the inning unscathed before scoring the run in the fifth.
Senior Lindsay McCabe led off the fifth with a walk and advanced to third off two consecutive sacrifice bunts. With two outs and a 3-and-2 count, junior Harley Hill delivered a blast up the middle for the 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, the Salisbury defense and Johnson retired the side in order, keeping Cortland, off the bags for the first time in the contest.
Entering the top of the seventh, Salisbury was just three outs away from moving on to the winners' bracket, but the Red Dragons led off the frame with a walk. A single up the middle by Diane Cork put two Red Dragons on, with the potential go-ahead run on first, before Lucia Meola doubled to left field for the 1-1 tie. A strikeout gave SU its first out of the inning, but a sacrifice fly by Cassie Kardias allowed the go-ahead run to score before the Sea Gulls could record the final out of the inning.
"Cortland rallied back, they came out strong," Johnson said. "We played them earlier in the season and they wanted to beat us, everyone wants a win but tomorrow is a new day."
A leadoff single by senior Carly Read sparked the Sea Gull bench as Read moved to second on junior Angelia McDowell's sacrifice bunt. With just one out, and pinch runner Alexis Peay in scoring position, Salisbury had the opportunity to tie the contest before the maroon and gold put two runners on, as senior Sarah Alpaugh walked after a Hill fly out. Cortland pitcher Amber Corrigan was able to put the ball in play, allowing Courtney Kadish to record the third out for the win.
Corrigan picked up the win, going all seven innings, while Johnson took her third loss of the season. Johnson had 13 strikeouts in the contest with two walks and scattered five hits.
The win is the first this season for the Red Dragons against Salisbury as the Sea Gulls had swept two regular-season meetings early in the year in Salisbury.
"We're at the World Series, so it's totally different than regular-season play," Hill said. "It's tough to beat a three times but we'll bounce back."
The Sea Gulls will have the chance to do that tomorrow afternoon facing the loser of the Luther College/Anderson (Ind.) University contest at 12 p.m., eastern time, on Saturday.