EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson helped the top-ranked Salisbury University softball team to its second win of the Division III Softball Championship in Eau Claire, Wis., as the Sea Gulls eliminated No. 3 Montclair State University with a 3-1 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Salisbury (41-3) would do all of its scoring in the third inning. Junior Angelia McDowell led off the frame with a single to shortstop, storming out of the box to beat the throw at first, before moving to second off a wild pitch from Red Hawk pitcher Alex Hill. The wild pitch gave junior Harley Hill a 3-2 count and after having difficulties laying down the sacrifice bunt, Hill delivered by sending a shot through the left side, advancing to second on the throw home, to give SU the 1-0 lead.
Senior Sarah Alpaugh moved Hill to third on a sacrifice bunt followed by an intentional walk that put senior Michelle Gravdahl on first. With runners on the corners, senior Hannah Mills hit a shot to the hot corner, moving Gravdahl to second with two outs. Freshman Paige Knussman produced a single through the right side that gave her two RBIs and SU the 3-0 lead.
The Sea Gulls produced two quick outs in the bottom of the frame but a Katie Muglia single that fell just short of Alpaugh's glove, allowed the Red Hawks the chance to put a run on the board. Muglia advanced to second on an error. Dana Amato took a free bag, putting two on, before Hill made the most of the situation, helping her cause with a chopper over the head of freshman third baseman Katie Sebbane. The RBI by Hill gave Montclair their only run of the contest. With two runners on, Tara Petrucelli hit a looping ball that looked as though it might fall behind Johnson, but the 5-foot-10 pitcher made the back-bending catch to end the inning.
The two teams would not produce any more runs throughout the contest due to stellar defense and excellent pitching on both sides.
Johnson took care of the Red Hawks (46-5) in the fourth and fifth, retiring the first three batters. The Sea Gull bats were able to produce hits in the fifth and sixth but no runs would come across.
Montclair put a runner in scoring position in the sixth as Petrucelli singled to right field and moved to second on a wild pitch with two outs, but the hot-handed Johnson got Jamie Paulino swinging to keep SU ahead 3-1.
The same would be true in the bottom of the seventh, despite a late single with two outs by pinch hitter Dana Egan to put a runner on. Senior Carly Read put away the third out to move on to an 8:30 p.m., elimination contest against the University of Texas at Tyler.
Johnson finished with six strikeouts while walking three and giving up four hits and one earned run.