SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 4 Salisbury University softball team opens play in a three-team NCAA regional at the SU Softball Field on Friday, May 8 taking on McDaniel College and No. 10 Virginia Wesleyan College with the first game set to begin at 11 a.m.
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Salisbury is joined by McDaniel and Virginia Wesleyan in one of just two three-team regionals in the NCAA tournament. The Salisbury, Maryland Regional will be one of 16 regional tournaments being contested this weekend. In a three-team regional, the first day is a round-robin with each team playing twice. Salisbury opens the action against McDaniel at 11 a.m., followed by the Green Terror taking on Virginia Wesleyan College at 1:30 p.m. The Marlins and Sea Gulls are scheduled to close out the day at 4 p.m.
How we got here
The Sea Gulls went 30-6 in the regular season to earn an at-large bid into the field of 62 teams, after falling in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship game. Salisbury went 3-2 in the CAC tournament, battling back from an opening loss to advance to the title game. Salisbury was a top-10 team in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll throughout the season, spending much of the year at No. 2.
How they got here
McDaniel (29-10) is the only team in this regional to have received an automatic bid into the tournament, claiming the Centennial Conference tournament championship. After rolling through their first two games, needing just six innings to defeat Muhlenberg College, 8-0, and Gettysburg College, 10-1, the Green Terror met up with Gettysburg again in the final, facing a stiffer challenge, but prevailing, 2-1 in nine innings, for the title. Stacie Maring's sacrifice fly brought home Lindsey Miller for the walk-off run.
Virginia Wesleyan earned an at-large bid after being eliminated from the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament in three games. The Marlins topped Randolph College in the opener, 8-2, but struggled offensively in losses to Randolph-Macon College and Emory & Henry College, scoring just one run in the two games. The Marlins went 29-6 to earn the at-large bid.
The Sea Gulls have met McDaniel 20 times, holding a 14-6 record in those contests. Salisbury has won eight of the past 10 meetings, with a 7-3 mark at home.
The Salisbury/Virginia Wesleyan series is one of the longest in Salisbury softball history, with the teams having met 57 times. There are only three other teams the Sea Gulls have played more times (Catholic University of America, Christopher Newport University, and Wesley College), while having played York College of Pennsylvania 57 times, as well. Salisbury holds a 42-15 edge in the all-time series against Virginia Wesleyan, including a 20-3 mark at the SU Softball Field.
Last time we met
Salisbury and McDaniel last faced off in the post season, meeting at an NCAA regional tournament hosted by Christopher Newport in 2012. The Green Terror came out on top, claiming a 4-2 win, eliminating Salisbury from the event. Current senior starting pitchers Rachel Johnson for Salisbury and Caroline Brehm for McDaniel dueled in that meeting as freshmen, combining to allow just 11 hits while striking out 26.
The Sea Gulls and Marlins faced off earlier this year, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, splitting a doubleheader. Salisbury claimed the opener, 1-0, behind a four-hit shutout from Johnson and an RBI from senior Rebecca Hoey. In the second game, The Sea Gulls took an early 1-0 lead, but it was quickly erased, and the Marlins earned the 3-1 victory.
Three of the best around
Johnson, Brehm and Virginia Wesleyan senior Kristina Karagiorgis have been mainstays in the circle for their teams over the past four years, and this weekend's pitching matchups will be key. The squads all rank in the top 13 nationally in ERA, with these three being some of the toughest to hit in the country. Karagiorgis ranks second in the nation in hits allowed per seven innings, at 3.01, just ahead of Brehm's sixth-ranked 4.05 and Johnson's seventh-ranked 4.28. Brehm and Karagiorgis sit in the top 10 in ERA, while Brehm and Johnson rank in the top 10 in strikeouts.
If the three teams all split their meetings on Friday, the No. 2 and 3 teams, McDaniel and Virginia Wesleyan would square off on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., with the winner advancing to play Salisbury at 1:30 p.m., the top-seeded team, for the regional title. If only two teams remain after Friday, those teams would face off on Saturday at 11 a.m. In that scenario, one team would be undefeated with a chance to claim the regional title in the first game. If the one-loss team wins the opener, the squads would play the deciding game at 1:30 p.m.