EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – After traveling through the elimination bracket in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship, the top-ranked Salisbury University softball team's journey to the national championship series was halted as the University of New York at Cortland rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning to claim a 7-6 victory over the Sea Gulls.
Salisbury (42-4) would take the early 1-0 lead over the Red Dragons in the first inning as senior Michelle Gravdahl doubled to left field, putting the ball over Diane Cork's head to plate classmate Sarah Alpaugh, but the lead would not stand up long as Cortland scored in the bottom of the second off the bat of Lucia Meola. The Red Dragons looked to score two but Alpaugh recovered from a slip in center field to get the throw home for the out at the plate.
The Sea Gulls would take the lead again in the third after Cortland took two quick outs. Red Dragon pitcher Amber Corrigan walked three straight Sea Gull batters before freshman Katie Sebbane entered the box and was hit by Corrigan's first pitch, to earn an RBI, plating Gravdahl for the 2-1 edge.
In the bottom of the frame, Cortland (35-16) battled back once again to even the score, scoring off Erin Wolstenholme's single, to make it 2-2. The Sea Gulls' would record the third out and preserve the tie as junior Angelia McDowell rocketed the ball from left field to get Nicole Gallo out at the plate for the second outfield assist of the game.
SU would get out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth, with bases loaded and two outs as Cassie Kardia fouled out to senior Hannah Mills, before taking a 6-2 advantage in the sixth.
In the sixth, Salisbury batted around the order starting with a leadoff double from senior Carly Read. A sacrifice bunt moved pinch runner Meredith Blades to third, who then scored off junior Harley Hill's single to left field. With Hill at second, Alpaugh popped a single to right field and advanced to second on the throw, as the Red Dragons tried to get Hill at third.
With just one out and Gravdahl in the box, Cortland went to the bullpen for Sarah Salamone. Salamone pitched around Gravdahl to load the bases and Mills made the Red Dragons pay, with a walk to force in a run. Freshman Paige Knussman delivered an RBI single to keep the bases loaded and push the lead to 5-2 before senior Lindsay McCabe fought for the free pass and the 6-2 advantage, bringing home Gravdahl.
Briana Barca led off the sixth for the Red Dragons hoping to begin a comeback but the Sea Gull defense stood strong with three consecutive outs.
However, the Red Dragons' fight continued in the seventh after leading things off with an Alicia Hibbard walk and Kardias single up the middle to put two runners on. The Sea Gulls could not recover after the momentum change as their championship run came to a heartbreaking end.
The contest closed out the careers of Gravdahl, Alpaugh, Mills, McCabe, Read, Lindsay Brown, and Chelsea Brooks. The seven seniors helped take the Sea Gulls to their seventh World Series, along with capturing four Capital Athletic Conference titles and going 151-21 in four years, with a program best overall record since 2005.