EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Senior catcher Michelle Gravdahl hit her 11th home run of the season in an elimination game in the 2013 NCAA Division III Softball Championship against Anderson (Ind.) University to eliminate the Ravens and stay alive in the World Series as the Sea Gulls went on to win 2-0.
"We are really happy to get a win, that's for sure," Head Coach Margie Knight said. "Anderson fought right to the end, putting runners on in the last couple innings. We had a couple miscues but were still able to come out on top with a couple timely hits today, which was really important for us, but our defense held up. I know there are three errors on the board, but defensively we played pretty solid."
Gravdahl's homer was sent out of Gelein Park, out past left field, in the bottom of the first inning with two outs. The one run would be all that would be needed to take the win but the Sea Gulls were able to tack on an insurance run in the fifth.
"It was a great way to start us off," Gravdahl said. "You hope to push people forward and get them a little hyped from it, so it was a good start."
Sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson and the Sea Gull defense worked through the Anderson lineup in the first three innings, going three-up, three-down until the fourth when Katy Ogden singled up the middle, with two outs, for the Ravens' first hit of the contest. Johnson then sat down Yardley Collett to finish the bottom of the third.
In the bottom of the fifth, Salisbury strung together a few hits and capitalized as junior Harley Hill reached second base off a single and a sacrifice bunt by senior Sarah Alpaugh. Senior Hannah Mills delivered the RBI, with a drive through the left side on the first pitch, with two outs, to plate Hill for the 2-0 advantage.
After five complete innings Johnson was relieved by junior hurler Kathryn Larson. Johnson finished with five strikeouts while allowing no walks and just one hit.
"When a new pitcher comes in I don't think it changes anything or adds pressure," Gravdahl said. "Other than the fact that they have different styles, so its just making sure I call their pitches."
Larson took some time to adjust, after having pitched just a few innings in the regional round, but found her groove.
Salisbury committed two errors, after the first out, in the sixth to put runners on second and third but a strikeout and pop-up kept the Ravens off the scoreboard.
"We have to get back to basics and stop trying to do too much and do the things that got us here, which are the fundamentals," said Knight. "While our defense has bent a little bit, none of our miscues have hurt us in a game and that's a good thing. Hopefully we have gotten them out of our system and we can move forward and take on our next opponent."
Another error in the seventh put the leadoff batter, Collett, on first. A high chopper by Lauren Smith looked as though it would bounce over the head of Larson but the junior was able to field the ball and get it over to Hill for the putout as Anderson's pinch runner moved to second. A single by Lys Hess put two runners on before a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third.
With the seventh inning starting to play out like yesterday's contest against the State University of New York at Cortland, Salisbury rewrote the ending as Larson struckout Natalie Moorehouse before Mills fielded a groundout to put away the game and move on in the tournament.
"I was thinking, I probably should have given Kat a few more innings in the regionals. It had been a while since she got to throw against live batters," Knight said. "Michelle called a nice game, induced a couple outs and Kat came in and did her job and Michelle did a nice job with her."
The win secures another day in Eau Claire, for the maroon and gold as the Sea Gulls will take on the loser of Tufts University/Montclair State University. Salisbury will play at 3:30 p.m., eastern time, on Sunday, May 19.