TYLER, Texas - Pacific Lutheran needed eight innings to continue its advancement through the winners bracket of the NCAA Division III softball regional tournament here on Saturday afternoon, beating Redlands, 2-1, at UT-Tyler Ballpark.
With the victory, the No. 2 seed Lutes (39-11) move on to a 1:30 p.m. (CDT) Sunday championship round game against No. 5 seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (30-13), which defeated tournament host and No. 1 seed Texas-Tyler, 3-1. The winner of the PLU versus CMS game will advance to the tournament championship game on Monday.
Birmingham-Southern (36-10) faces Texas-Tyler (37-8) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. (CDT) Sunday.
"It's good to win. Redlands is a really good team," PLU head coach Erin Van Nostrand said after the celebrating was finished. "We're still not playing the way we're capable of and I still think we're trying to work out the nerves of being here and being a team that doesn't have anybody who has any postseason experience."
Until the top of the seventh inning, pitchers Stacey Hagensen from PLU and Kayla Uphold from Redlands kept their opponents off of the scoreboard. Redlands managed six hits through the first six innings and twice got a runner as far as second base before Hagensen shut the door. Uphold was even sharper, limiting the Lutes to just three hits through six frames. PLU best chance came in the fourth inning when pinch runner Spencer Sherwin was left stranded at third base.
The Bulldogs finally broke through with a run on five singles in the top of the seventh inning, with Molly Duran scoring on Sarah Beeman's bouncer over the head of PLU third baseman Haley Harshaw. Redlands could have scored more had not Katie Lowery thrown out a runner stealing, in addition to Hagensen coaxing an inning-ending ground out that left the bases loaded.
Facing that 1-0 deficit, Pacific Lutheran rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh and then won it with an unearned run in the eighth.
Lowery got the tying rally going with one out, singling sharply though the left side of the infield. Pinch hitter Ami Gran fell behind 0-2 before drawing a walk, moving Lowery to second base. When Glenelle Nitta hit a bouncer back to Uphold, she thought about trying to get Lowery at third, changed her mind, and then threw low to first baseman Rikki Scates. Lowery, running hard on the play, raced home and slid around the tag of catcher Kai Masutani, tying the score. The game went into extra innings, however, when Harshaw's line drive to shortstop was turned into an inning-ending double play at third base.
"Somehow we always find a way to get it done in the bottom of the seventh inning," Van Nostrand said. "I don't know what it is. This is like the fourth time we've done it. They're just like, oh, it's the seventh inning, sense or urgency here we go. It's exciting. Anytime you win it's exciting."
After Hagensen retired the Bulldogs in order in the top of the eighth, Montessa Califano started the winning rally by reaching on a ground ball to shortstop that was ruled an error. Hagensen followed with a single to center, but she was forced at second on Kaaren Hatlen's grounder, putting runners at the corners with two outs. Amanda Hall ended the game, driving Uphold's pitch off the fence in left centerfield and scoring Califano with the winning run.
Hagensen improved her season record to 22-5, allowing one run on 11 hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
Uphold, the hard-luck loser, is now 20-5 this season. Both runs she allowed were unearned, and she limited the Lutes to just six base hits while walking one and striking out one.
Both Janelle Carrasco and Amanda Lievanos had three hits and Molly Duran added two for the Bulldogs.
Califano and Hall both had two hits to lead the Lutes in that category.
- PLU -