TYLER, Texas – The dream of the first national championship for the Salisbury University softball program came up just short, falling in the title game to Tufts University, 6-0, on Tuesday afternoon, ending Salisbury's season with 44 victories, the second-highest total in program history.
The Sea Gulls found themselves against one of the best pitchers in the nation, and battled for opportunities, but could not bring a run home against Tufts' Allyson Fournier.
Salisbury got its first base runner in the bottom of the second when sophomore Paige Knussman looped a single into left-center field, but was eliminated on an inning-ending double play. It was one of seven base runners in the game for the Sea Gulls as Fournier earned her 28th win and 14th shutout of the year.
The Jumbos scored in the top of the second inning when Michelle Cooprider reached on a two-out single through the right side. After Salisbury starter Rachel Johnson walked Carrie Copacino to move Cooprider into scoring position, Christina Raso got a single up the middle to score the game's first run.
Johnson got what she needed from the next batter, Sara Hedtler – a groundball – but Hedtler's slow roller did not have enough behind it. Despite charging the ball and making a clean throw to first, shortstop Kim Dorsey's throw was not in time and Capacino scored for the 2-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Tufts (47-4) would strike again, getting three hits off Johnson before senior Kathryn Larson was called upon. The Jumbos would put together five total hits in the innings, and four runs, to extend the lead to 6-0.
Larson was sharp from that point on, allowing just three hits over the final 3 1/3 innings, and not allowing another Tufts run.
But the Sea Gulls could do little against Fournier, who worked the final 24 innings of the tournament without surrendering a run to Salisbury.
One of the best chances came in the bottom of the fifth when junior Rebecca Hoey singled through the left side and classmate Angela Malgieri moved pinch runner Molly Gigioli into scoring position with her single to center.
But Fournier would retire the next two batters on strikeouts to end the threat. She finished with five punchouts in the game to be name the Co-Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, along with her catcher, Jo Clair.
The Sea Gulls (44-5) would get two runners on again, in the seventh, with two outs, on a Malgieri walk and a double by sophomore Molly Simpson, but the final out of the season would come on a strikeout.
The 2014 season marked the eighth trip to the NCAA championship for the Sea Gulls, and the third time they have finished as the runner up.
Johnson struck out 38 batters in 37 2/3 innings of work throughout the NCAA tournament to be named to the All-Tournament team, along with Knussman, who was 9-for-21 (.429 average), with five doubles and a home run, and Dorsey, who had a pair of extra-base hits and was flawless in the field on 30 chances.
The game marks the end of the careers of seniors Angelia McDowell, Virginia Walther, Harley Hill, Gigioli, and Larson. In the past four years, the program has posted a record of 159-22, one of the highest four-year win totals in program history, qualified for four NCAA tournaments and played in the NCAA championship twice.