SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 4 Salisbury University softball team opened the NCAA Division III Salisbury, Maryland Super Regional on Friday afternoon and did so with a complete effort, claiming an 8-0 win in six innings against No. 11 Christopher Newport University to take a one-game lead in the best-of-three series.
The Sea Gulls would score five times in the first two innings, and the run support was plenty for senior pitcher Rachel Johnson, who allowed just one hit in the complete-game win.
"I thought our team came out very focused and played extremely well," Head Coach Margie Knight said. "We were very offensive, so I was proud of the way our players played and we're certainly playing against what I think is one of the best teams in the country, so to be able to get a win we're very happy about that."
Junior Kim Dorsey drew a leadoff walk from Christopher Newport starting pitcher Hanah Marshall in the first inning to get things started and junior Katie Sebbane came up with a bunt that snuck through for a single, advancing Dorsey to second. Dorsey tried to grab an extra base to get through to third, but was thrown out. However, the aggression allowed Sebbane to reach second.
After Marshall got a strikeout for the first out of the inning, she got ahead of Annah Brittingham 0-and-2. The Salisbury designated player was able to connect on the next pitch, off the outside corner of the plate, driving a double off the fence in center field to bring home Sebbane for the early 1-0 lead.
Senior catcher Rebecca Hoey got ahead of Marshall 2-and-0 and sent a liner back up the middle to bring home Brittingham to stake Johnson to a 2-0 lead.
The Sea Gulls would grow the lead even more in the second, coming up with four hits off Marshall. After a leadoff single by senior Angela Malgieri, she was eliminated on a one-out fielder's choice off the bat of Dorsey, but Salisbury would do its damage with two outs. Sebbane just missed a home run by two feet with a double off the fence in left-center field, putting both runners in scoring position.
Paige Knussman stepped to the plate and just missed a three-run home run, hooking her shot just foul. But on the next pitch she was able to send a sinking liner to left field, which Scoop Simon came charging for and slid, but could not make the catch. The double scored both Dorsey and Sebbane, and Knussman would score later after stealing third and being driven home by Brittingham, who sent a single to left field for the 5-0 lead.
Johnson, and the Salisbury defense behind her, shut down the Captains the rest of the way. Johnson struck out seven in the contest, while surrendering just a single up the middle in the fifth inning by Rachael Shiflett. The defense came through in that inning to erase Shiflett as Hannah Cook lifted a ball to shallow center field. Junior Rachel Spadin charged and slid to make the catch for the first out of the inning, popped up and threw to first to double up Shiflett.
Spadin would run down a would-be extra-base hit in the gap in left-center field in the sixth inning before the Gulls put things away.
"Every day in practice we do these things called 'skill perfections' and I have to reinforce several times during the season the importance of them and then when we see something like this happen in a big game and we're able to make the routine plays… and Rachel makes a sliding play and Becca (Hoey) is backing that play up all the way, there's a lot of little things that people didn't see," Knight said.
Salisbury scored two runs in the fifth, off reliever Krista Lewis, highlighted by Knussman's team-high-tying ninth home run of the year to lead things off, and the Sea Gulls drew four walks to bring home the winning run in the sixth inning.
The heart of the Salisbury order did most of the damage offensively with Brittingham finishing 3-for-4, while Sebbane and Knussman were each 2-for-3. All three players and Dorsey scored twice, while Knussman drove in three and Brittingham had a pair of RBIs.
"It was a big win, it really boosted our confidence," Sebbane said. "We've been practicing all season for this. We really want it."
The teams meet again on Saturday, May 16, at 1 p.m., for the second game of the series. If Salisbury wins the game, it takes the series, and will advance to the NCAA Championship. If the Captains claim the game, the teams will turn around and play again at 3:30 p.m., for the final game of the series.