NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The No. 1 Salisbury University softball team split a pair of games on the second day of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament to advance to Saturday's championship day, falling to Christopher Newport University, 1-0, before claiming an 11-6 win against Frostburg State University.
Christopher Newport 1, Salisbury 0
The Sea Gulls found themselves in a pitchers' duel in the first game of the day, falling 1-0, despite nearly mounting the comeback in the seventh inning to tie the game.
Junior Rachel Johnson and CNU freshman Makayla Jenkins would be the stars of the day, as neither team registered more than four hits in the game.
When the teams met in the regular season, the pitchers won their starts, as the squads split the doubleheader. Johnson gave up just two hits and struck out 13 in her win on March 22, while Jenkins gave up just three hits in her contest that day. Friday would see similar strong play from the circle by both pitchers.
Johnson surrendered a two-out walk in the first inning on Friday, but would quickly erase Sabrina Hill on a four-pitch strikeout to finish the inning. The Preston, Md., native struck out the side in the first and would put away eight Captains on strikes in the game.
Salisbury would get its first base runner in the second when sophomore Katie Sebbane sent a soft liner the opposite way to right field for a one-out single. Sebbane would be stranded following a strikeout and a groundout to end the frame and that would be the only Sea Gull hit until the seventh.
The Captains would get on the board in the bottom of the third inning, when Rachael Shifflett walked with one out and stole second base. Shifflett came around as the go-ahead run when pinch hitter Kelsey Lewis hit a looping single to right field.
Salisbury's bats would be quiet until the top of the seventh, when sophomore Paige Knussman led the frame with a single down the third-base line. But she would be erased on a double play on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
The next batter, Molly Simpson, hit a chopper up the middle, which was fielded by second baseman Tori Clarke behind the second base bag as Malgieri slid safely into second. Gigioli never slowed down rounding third, trying to score on the play. Clarke fired home and Gigioli tried to elude the swipe tag by catcher Karlee Holzbach with a slide to the third-base side of home plate, but was called out, ending the game and sending Salisbury to an afternoon date with third-seeded Frostburg State University.
Salisbury 11, Frostburg St. 6
In Salisbury's second game of the day, the Sea Gulls (33-2) found themselves in a quick 1-0 hole as Frostburg State got to Salisbury starting pitcher Kathryn Larson for three hits and a run in the first inning.
Larson settled in after the first, retiring 10-straight batters, before the next Bobcat reached base after being hit by a pitch in the top of the fifth. By that time, the Salisbury offense had given Larson a 7-1 lead.
The Salisbury bats came alive in the third, as the Sea Gulls drew even with the Bobcats, and went ahead. Simpson drove the first pitch of the inning from Bobcat starting pitcher Hannah Tavik over the scoreboard in left field for a solo shot, tying the game at 1-1.
Angelia McDowell would next reach base with a soft liner to left field and advanced to third on Hill's ground-rule double to right. The Sea Gulls tried a squeeze bunt with Rachel Spadin, but McDowell was thrown out trying to score.
Tavik would put off Salisbury's go-ahead run only so long. After Kim Dorsey walked to load the bases, Knussman drilled the second home run of the inning, a grand slam, to left-center field for the 5-1 lead.
The Gulls would add two more in the inning. Simpson drove in another with a single and pinch hitter Virginia Walther would force home Hoey for the 7-1 lead.
The Bobcats (18-11) would come back with two runs in the top of the fifth, on a two-run single by Tavik, but the Gulls would get the runs right back in the fifth. Simpson would go deep again, this time a two-run shot, to push the lead to 9-3.
Caitlin Lovend would make things close for the Bobcats, with a three-run home run in the sixth inning before Johnson came on in relief of Larson to finish off the inning.
Hoey's two-run double would push the lead to 11-6, in the sixth, before Johnson put down the Bobcats in order in the seventh to finish the contest and send the Gulls to championship Saturday, with her third save of the year. Johnson got a pair of strikeouts in the seventh to reach 200 punch outs for the second year in a row, one of just three players in program history to reach that single-season milestone.
Simpson finished 3-for-3 with the four runs driven in, and Dorsey was 2-for-2 in the game.
Salisbury will take on Christopher Newport on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., needing to beat the Captains twice to win the CAC championship.