SALEM, Va. – The No. 4 Salisbury University softball team got past Kean University on Saturday afternoon, 2-0, in day-three action of the NCAA Division III Softball Championship to advance to Sunday's pool play finale against No. 2 University of Texas-Tyler.
In another close battle, Salisbury got all of the offense it needed from the tandem of juniors Annah Brittingham and Molly Simpson and senior pitcher Rachel Johnson made their work stand up, twirling a gem, allowing just one hit and two total base runners.
"It was another hard-fought battle," Head Coach Margie Knight said. "We keep running into these outstanding pitchers and hits were hard to come by, but we were able to string a couple together with two outs and Rachel had another outstanding pitching performance, and Molly came through with two key RBIs."
Johnson was rolling early, retiring the side in order in each of the first three innings before a leadoff walk to Courtney Yard in the fourth. The Sea Gull defense stood strong for the senior pitcher, as the next batter, Emily Sabo, laid down a bunt trying to move Yard into scoring position, but Salisbury third baseman Katie Sebbane was on the ball quickly and fired to second to retire Yard.
Two strikeouts later, Johnson was out of the inning, and she would not allow another base runner until the seventh inning. By that time, Brittingham and Simpson had staked Johnson to a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Gulls (37-7) struck for the first time as Brittingham got things going with a two-out single up the middle that was just out of the reach of the diving Kean (31-15-1) shortstop.
The Pocomoke, Maryland native motored around from first base when Simpson drove a ball to the gap in left-center field, allowing Brittingham to score standing up, with Simpson cruising into second with the double and the first RBI of the day.
The pair would connect again in the sixth for an insurance run, again with two outs as Brittingham lofted a single into left field and stole second base. Simpson, who moved up a spot in the order on Saturday, came up with a single up the middle to make it 2-0.
"Molly and Annah have been pretty hot, so I decided to put them back-to-back and good things happened," Knight said.
Simpson and Brittingham each went 2-for-3 in the contest, accounting for four of the team's seven hits.
"I got the chance to see a lot of pitches," Simpson said. "The Kean pitcher, Courtney, she threw a lot of pitches. I just watched my teammates' at-bats to see what she was throwing and what her go-to was."
The Sea Gulls needed no more offense than that as Johnson was in control throughout the game, surrendering just one base hit in the seventh inning, as Sabo singled on a bunt to open the final inning. She would advance to second on a passed ball, but got no further, as Johnson picked up a strikeout and a pair of pop outs to finish off the win.
With the win, the Sea Gulls survive to play another day. They will take on the No. 2 University of Texas-Tyler on Sunday, May 24, beginning at noon. Salisbury will need two wins to defeat the Patriots, who have not lost in the championship, in order to eliminate UT-Tyler and advance to the best-of-three championship series, which would begin on Monday, May 25.