SALISBURY, Md. – Wednesday afternoon was a huge day for the No. 2 Salisbury University softball team as the squad made history with a perfect game in the opening game of a doubleheader against Stevenson University. The Sea Gulls would make history for their coach in the second game, as a 3-2 walk-off win was the 700th victory in the career of Head Coach Margie Knight.
Game 1: Salisbury 1, Stevenson 0
Senior pitcher Rachel Johnson was on her game from the very start in the opener, notching the 11th perfect game in program history and her own sixth, mowing through the Stevenson lineup.
The Preston, Maryland native retired the Mustang lineup with nine strikeouts the first time through the order before the ball was put in play in the fourth inning. She would get the side in order in the fourth, before notching six strikeouts in the next seven outs starting in the fifth.
The offense came up with the one run it needed in the bottom of the fourth inning, putting together three of the Sea Gulls' seven hits in the game in that frame.
With one out, junior Paige Knussman singled up the middle and was still on first with two down when Rebecca Hoey singled down the left-field line, moving Knussman to second. Junior Molly Simpson drove in the game's only run, ripping a double to left-center field for the 1-0 lead.
Johnson made the lead stand up, striking out a season-high 15 in the game, while only facing a three-ball count once in the 21 batters she faced.
The perfect game is the 46th no-hitter in program history, with Johnson having been a part of 12 of them, including her six perfect games.
Game 2: Salisbury 3, Stevenson 2
The 700th win of Knight's career was not without drama, as the Gulls grabbed an early lead but saw Stevenson pull even before a walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh. Knight's career spans the past 19 seasons in the Salisbury dugout, where she has won nearly 83 percent of her games, and becomes just the 14th Division III coach to reach the milestone.
"I'm really happy, I think it just speaks volumes for the coaches that I've had on staff, and Tom Stitcher staying on and being part of this from the first day I took over," Knight said. "And for the many, many young women that have gone through the program. I can't say enough things about them and so many of them are still in my life, which I think is maybe the best tribute I've ever had."
The Sea Gulls (20-1) would get the first run in the second game, scoring in the bottom of the first inning as Salisbury turned junior Kim Dorsey's leadoff walk into a 1-0 lead. Dorsey advanced to second on a sacrifice, and scored when Katie Sebbane grounded to third base. The throw was off line to first, allowing Dorsey to come home.
The first Mustang (6-9) base runner of the day reached in the top of the second, on a single to center field by Kate Finnen. Ali Culp would pinch run and advance to second on Kaitlyn Seger's one-out single to left field. The threat was thwarted when Culp left second base early, for the second out, and the inning ended on the next pitch when junior pitcher Annah Brittingham got a ground out.
The Sea Gull bats doubled the lead in the third, with Dorsey again reaching, this time on a single, and advancing to scoring position on LeAnne Collins' groundout and scored when Knussman laced a single to right-center field.
The Mustangs drew even in the fourth, scoring twice on four hits, but Brittingham would strand the go-ahead run at third with a flyout.
Johnson came in to pitch in the top of the fifth, and it was the defense that helped keep the game tied. The second batter Johnson saw was Tiffany Kahl, who ripped a ball to left-center field. Sophomore Caitlin Lake, in as a defensive replacement an inning earlier at left field, got a great jump on the ball, and leaped to make the catch after a quick bobble. Kahl would certainly have had extra bases, and the Mustangs came up with their first hit of the day off Johnson later in the inning, but could not score.
The game remained knotted at 2-2, with Johnson stranding the potential tying run at second base in the top of the seventh before Lake became the offensive hero in the home half of the inning.
Brittingham led off the seventh inning with a single to center field before advancing to second on a Stevenson error. Lake drove a ball through the left side, and Brittingham never slowed rounding third and scored the winning run just ahead of the throw in from Seger in left.
Salisbury returns to action on Saturday, April 4 hosting No. 21 Christopher Newport University in a Capital Athletic Conference doubleheader slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. Prior to the first game, Knight will honored for her 700 coaching victories.