SALISBURY, Md. – After a few hours of playing the waiting game, due to early rain on Friday, the No. 4 Salisbury University softball team was able to open play in the NCAA Division III Salisbury, Maryland Super Regional, defeating No. 5 Christopher Newport University, 6-4.
The long wait had no effect on the Salisbury bats as the Gulls got things going early on the offensive side.
After junior pitcher Rachel Johnson struck out the side in the top of the first, senior Harley Hill got the Salisbury offense going by scooting a grounder through the right side for a single. After failing to get a pair of bunts in play, things worked out for Angelia McDowell, who slashed a line-shot single to left field.
CNU freshman Makayla Jenkins, who has beaten Salisbury three times this year, would get the first out before sophomore Paige Knussman ripped a ball to left field, bringing McDowell home from second for the 1-0 lead.
Jenkins would get a groundout before allowing a walk to load the bases. But she would get a flyout to end the threat.
"We were able to stay aggressive at the plate the entire time, regardless of which pitcher was on the mound," Salisbury Head Coach Margie Knight said. "I thought we hit both of their lefties hard. … They're very good defensively, so we'd better keep our foot on the pedal. You've got two teams slugging it out here."
Salisbury would get two more hits off Jenkins in the second, despite not scoring a run, and Knussman would rip a lead-off single in the third. The six hits match the most Salisbury has been able to put up against Jenkins in a game this season.
Knussman was erased on Katie Sebbane's groundout and the Sea Gulls put runners at the corners as Rebecca Hoey laced a ball to right field. Salisbury would extend the lead to 2-0 on Angela Malgieri's shot to left-center field, scoring Sebbane from third. One batter later, Jenkins was lifted in favor of Hannah Marshall.
The advantage would grow to 3-0 when Marshall was called for an illegal pitch, bringing pinch runner Molly Gigioli in from third base.
The Captains broke through against Johnson with a run in the top of the sixth, on three hits. Karlee Holzbach drove in Kristina McLaughlin with her one-out single, and Christopher Newport nearly got the lead to one when Tori Clarke drove a double off the center field fence. Stephanie Condenzio, who pinch ran for Holzbach, tried to score from first, but was gunned down at the plate when center fielder Rachel Spadin got the ball in quickly and shortstop Kim Dorsey had a strong relay throw to get the ball to the catcher, Hoey, in plenty of time for the final out of the inning.
The Sea Gulls would answer back in the bottom of the sixth. Following singles by Hill and Dorsey, Knussman sent the first triple of her career into the right field corner, scoring the two runners, pushing the Salisbury lead to 5-1.
Sebbane would follow with a line single to left-center field to score Knussman, capping the Salisbury scoring.
The Captains refused to go quietly, putting together three hits and scoring a run off Johnson before senior Kathryn Larson stepped into the circle for the Gulls with two outs in the inning. Larson walked a batter and gave up a slow-roller base hit, bringing home two more and cutting the lead to 6-4, before Johnson re-entered to finish things off. She got Clarke to fly out to center, ending the game and giving Salisbury the key win to open the series.
"I think it's extremely important to win the first game in a best-of-three series," Knight said. "In all honesty, we have to come out and take care of ourselves. So we're going to come out and play it like it's a one-game championship tomorrow and go very hard at them, and I'm sure they're going to come back with everything they have at us."
The series continues with the second game on Saturday, May 17. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. If the Captains can even the event at one game apiece, the teams will play the series-deciding contest at 3:30 p.m.