SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 2 Salisbury University softball team will look for two wins on Saturday, May 14 to remain alive in the Norfolk, Virginia regional of the 2016 NCAA Division III Softball Tournament. The first game of the day for the Sea Gulls will be a matchup with the host, No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan College, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls saw a 17-game winning streak snapped on Friday morning by Haverford College in a 1-0 defeat. The Fords scored the game's only run in the fourth inning on a solo home run by Kendall Chambers.
Salisbury could not push a run across, managing just two hits against Haverford starting pitcher Sara Tauriello. One of the hits looked to start a sixth-inning rally as senior Annah Brittingham ripped a leadoff double and advanced to third with two outs before Salisbury loaded the bases, but Tauriello got out of the jam. It was one of four times that Salisbury had runners on base against Tauriello, as the Sea Gulls drew six walks in the game.
How they got here
The Marlins also saw a 17-game winning streak end on Friday, falling 2-0 to Saint Vincent College. The Bearcats scored both runs in the top of the seventh inning, coming up with all four of their hits from the game in the inning. Emily Duerr's double and a Virginia Wesleyan error, allowed Shelby Noel to score the winning run with no outs.
Cassetty Howerin was 2-for-2 for the Marlins while Blake Henderson and Jessica Lindsay each had hits. Kandis Kresinske took just her second loss of the year, tossing six no-hit innings before the final frame. She struck out five in the game, while walking only one.
Salisbury and Virginia Wesleyan are familiar with each other, having faced off 57 times in the series history. The Sea Gulls hold a 42-15 edge in the all-time series, including having won six of the last eight meetings, going back to the 2014 season. At Virginia Wesleyan, Salisbury holds just a slight edge in the series, holding a 15-12 record against the Marlins. Salisbury and Virginia Wesleyan squared off earlier this year in a doubleheader in Salisbury, splitting the two games with the Marlins grabbing the opener, 5-0, before Salisbury finished off the split with a 7-1 win.
Scouting the Marlins
Virginia Wesleyan comes into the game with a high-octane offense, scoring nearly 6.5 runs per game, while leading the country in stolen bases, swiping 3.65 per game. The Marlins have the top pitching staff in the nation, with a 1.06 ERA.
Sophomore Cassetty Howerin currently stands ninth in the nation with a .516 batting average after her two-hit performance on Friday, while her on-base percentage of .595 ranks third. Courtney Bogan is second on the team with a .419 batting average and leads the nation in stolen bases, swiping 1.58 bags per game.
Senior Mary Shipp and Kresinske have pitched the majority of the innings for Virginia Wesleyan, leading the team to its nation-leading ERA as each stands in the top 20 nationally in the category. Kresinske's 1.07 ERA is 10th while Shipp's 1.23 mark is 20th.
Senior Kim Dorsey enters Saturday's game with the longest streak of games reaching base, having gotten on in 11-straight contests. She walked in Friday's game to extend the streak, and is one of eight players to have a reached-base streak of at least 10 games this year, with Molly Simpson's 20-game stretch the longest of the year.
Taking one for the team
Senior Katie Sebbane was hit by a pitch in the second inning on Friday, marking the 17th time she's been plunked this year. It marks the most times hit by a pitch by a Sea Gull since Stacey Malarkey was hit 19 times in 2009. Sebbane currently ranks sixth in Division III, being hit by 0.42 pitches per game.
Last time against No. 1
Salisbury last faced off with the No. 1-ranked team in the country during the 2015 NCAA championship week, dropping a 3-0 decision to Tufts University. In a scoreless game in the second inning, Salisbury put together two of its three hits in the game against Allyson Fournier, one of the top pitchers in Division III history. But the Sea Gulls left the bases loaded in the inning. The Jumbos put up all three of its runs in the game in the third inning, on its way to the national championship.
Salisbury's last win against the No. 1-ranked team came in 2014 at the NCAA championship against Tufts. In the best-of-three championship series, Salisbury won the opener 2-1 with current senior Paige Knussman belting a solo home run and classmate Molly Simpson driving in the game-winning run in the fourth inning.
The winner of the game will turn around and play against the loser of Saturday's first game between Haverford and Saint Vincent in another elimination contest. The loser of Saturday's game between Salisbury and Virginia Wesleyan will be eliminated.