SALEM, Va. – The No. 4 Salisbury University softball team will face off with Kean University on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., at the Moyer Sports Complex in the NCAA Division III Softball championship with one team moving one step closer to the championship series and the other seeing its season come to a close.
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How we got here
Salisbury won its first six games of the NCAA tournament before running into No. 1 Tufts University on Friday night, taking a 3-0 loss. The Sea Gulls got to Tufts starting pitcher Allyson Fournier for three hits in seven innings, putting runners in scoring position twice, but could not push a run across. It marked just the eighth time this season that a team has accumulated three or more hits against Fournier. The Jumbos picked up all its scoring in the third inning, doing so with two outs in the frame.
How they got here
Kean, an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament out of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, faced elimination in both the regional and super regional round, but was able to overcome the win-or-go-home game in each round. The Cougars dropped their opener in the NCAA Championship to the University of Texas-Tyler, 1-0, before coming back for an impressive 10-4 win against Alfred University to get to today's contest. In Friday's six-run win, Kean pounded out 14 hits, led by pitcher Courtney Yard's 3-for-5 effort at the plate. Yard struck out 10 in the win, while surrendering eight hits in seven innings of work.
Today's game will mark the 15th all-time meeting between Kean and the Sea Gulls, with Salisbury holding an 11-3 edge through the first 14 games. None of the players on today's rosters have seen the other team, with the most recent meeting coming in 2009, as the Sea Gulls earned a 3-2 win that day.
The Cougars are paced offensively by sophomore second baseman Courtney Sabo, who is batting .471 entering today's game. She is the only Kean player batting higher than .380, while Sabo has also earned 14 extra-base hits, including six triples. Yard is Kean's ace, getting the start in the circle in 37 of the team's 46 games this year, while tossing 32 complete games. She sports a 1.33 ERA, with 250 strikeouts in 236 1/3 innings.
Coming back from a loss
In the past three seasons, Salisbury has lost back-to-back games just four times. The Sea Gulls are 11-4 following a loss since the 2013 season.
The winner of today's game will move on to play on Sunday, needing to pull off a pair of wins against No. 2 University of Texas-Tyler to advance. The Patriots have collected a pair of wins to open the championship, beating Kean, 1-0 on Thursday, and Linfield College, 2-1 on Friday, to earn a day off on Saturday.