SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 2 Salisbury University softball team opens play in the 2016 NCAA tournament on Friday, May 13 taking on Haverford College at the Norfolk, Virginia regional, hosted by Virginia Wesleyan College. The first pitch for the Sea Gulls is slated for 10 a.m. The game, originally scheduled to begin in the afternoon, has been moved up in an attempt to beat poor weather expected to hit the area.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls went 34-4 in the regular season and claimed the Capital Athletic Conference championship for the 19th time in program history to earn the automatic bid into the field of 62 teams. Salisbury has been a nationally-ranked team in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll throughout the season, spending the past three weeks at No. 2.
How they got here
Haverford dropped its opener in the Centennial Conference tournament to Washington (Md.) College before claiming four games in a row, closing the championship with two wins against Washington to claim the title and automatic bid, entering Friday with a 24-19 record.
The Sea Gulls only have one previous meeting with Haverford, claiming a 6-2 win at the SU Softball Field on May 11, 2006 in an opening-round game of an NCAA regional.
The Fords enter play on Friday with three players batting over .300 on the year, led by Julia Blake's .338 average with nine doubles, a team-leading two triples, and one home run. Her 29 runs also lead the team. Three pitchers have covered Haverford's 285 innings in the circle this year, with all between 89 and 106 2/3 innings pitched. Sara Tauriello leads the way with a 2.52 ERA, while striking out a team leading 101 batters in 89 innings.
Three of a kind
Seniors Kim Dorsey, Paige Knussman and Molly Simpson have established themselves as three of the top power hitters in the nation, and are the only trio of teammates in Division III softball to have achieved at least 10 home runs each. Simpson leads the nation, having mashed 14 long balls, while Knussman has hit 11 and Dorsey 10. The trio has been selected for the final 25 players in consideration for the inaugural Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III Player of the Year award.
The Sea Gulls enter the weekend on a 17-game winning streak and the statistics show why. During the streak, dating to a doubleheader sweep at Stevenson University on March 30, Salisbury has batted .422 as a team with 25 home runs and 79 total extra-base hits. Opposing teams have been hard-pressed to keep up with those numbers as the Salisbury pitching staff has been superb over the 17-game stretch, allowing just nine extra-base hits with a .164 batting average and a 0.41 earned-run average.
Racing around the bases
Junior Caitlin Lake has worked her way into a regular spot in the batting order and has made the most of the opportunity, using her speed and well-placed hits to leg out five triples thus far. The number is good for 35th in the nation and the first time a Sea Gull has had five triples in a season since 2003 when Lisa Gentilella had six three-baggers.
The winner of Friday's game will take on the winner of the other Friday contest between No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan and Saint Vincent College, while the losing team from each matchup will meet on Saturday, as well. The winners' bracket game will begin at 11 a.m., while the losers' bracket game is slated for 1:30 p.m.