SALEM, Va. – A huge fourth inning gave the Trine University softball team their second straight victory over a top-five ranked team as they advance to the winners' bracket final, just one win away from the championship best of three series.
The team faced off with Salisbury University in today's contest, the fourth-ranked team in the country according to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Poll and the second-seeded team of the final eight playing in Salem. The Thunder posted seven runs in the fourth inning and held on to win the contest in run-rule fashion with a score of 9-1 after five innings.
Adrienne Rosey (Schoolcraft, Mich. / Schoolcraft) would once again start for the team in the circle. After allowing a leadoff double to the Seagulls, she settled in and recorded the next nine straight outs in order.
The Thunder immediately gave Rosey offensive support in the bottom half of the first inning. Junior Ellie Trine (Kokomo, Ind. / Kokomo) led off the inning with a single through the right side, followed by senior Taylor Murdock (Lapel, Ind. / Lapel) moving her to second on a single of her own. Junior Amanda Prather (Indianapolis, Ind. / Roncalli) would then record the first RBI of the game with a single to right center.
The next two batters would be outs for the team, but during the final at-bat of the inning a ball would sneak past the opposition's catcher allowing Murdock and Prather to each advance. A miscue by the third basewoman on her throw to second, attempting to catch Prather advancing, put the ball into the outfield and allowed Murdock to scamper home, giving the team a 2-0 lead.
Neither team would threaten over the next two innings, but in the top of the fourth Salisbury would give Rosey her first trouble of the day. The leadoff batter would reach on a single, but would leave the base path when freshman Ainsley Phillips (Yorktown, Ind. / Yorktown) gunned her out at second on a stolen base attempt. After another out however the Seagulls would string together two singles and a walk to load the bases. The sure hands of Murdock in right field would end the threat on a flyout, keeping the score 2-0 in favor of Trine.
The team carried the momentum into the bottom of the inning with the offense exploding for seven runs. Sophomore Scarllett Elliott (Utica, Ohio / Utica) led off the inning with a double to right center before freshman Emma Beyer (Rochester, Mich. / Stoney Creek) joined her with a walk. Senior Mercede Daugherty (Watervliet, Mich. / Watervliet) would attempt to sacrifice bunt the runners to second and third, but an error by the opposition would load the bases instead.
Junior Anna Gill (Ashville, Ohio / Teays Valley) would bunt as well but legged it out for a single. Elliott would score on the hit, but another error by the Seagulls would allow Beyer to come home from second building the lead to 4-0.
After a pitching change, the Thunder continued to cause fits to the opposition. Phillips would draw a walk to load the bases again, before Ellie Trine gave the team another run on a sacrifice fly. Murdock was hit by pitch to load the bases again. From there Prather had the highlight of the championship so far, sending the ball over the fence down the left field line.
The grand slam gave the team a commanding 9-0 lead and put Salisbury on watch for a run-rule defeat. Rosey posted two quick outs to start the top of the fifth but a walk and double cut the lead to 9-1 and forced a change in the circle for Trine. Sophomore Lauren Clausen (Elk Grove, Ill. / Elk Grove) entered the circle for her first action of the weekend. It was a short outing, as the next batter would send a groundball to Prather at shortstop that ended the game.
The victory puts the team in unexplored territory. While their last trip to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship in 2019 saw the team win a pair of games, one came during an elimination bracket contest. This time the second win comes in the winners' bracket and puts the team just one win away from being one of two remaining teams to play in the best of three championship series.
Trine will need to wait until later tonight to find out who they will face tomorrow. They will meet the winner of the elimination bracket final between Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) and Berry College. ECSU was ranked third in the latest NFCA poll and is seeded third among the eight remaining teams, they have also already been defeated by the Thunder in the opening game of the championship. Berry was ranked tenth nationally and seeded fifth, their lone loss came earlier today against top-ranked and seeded Christopher Newport University.
No matter the opponent, Trine is set to take the field at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, May 28. They will have two chances to win one game and advance to the final series.