BOTETOURT, Va. – Despite falling into the loser’s bracket of the 2015 NCCAA World Series, Grace’s softball team stayed alive to reach day two of the tournament.
After narrowly losing 7-6 to No. 4 Oklahoma Christian in the opening round on Wednesday, the Lady Lancers (32-26) won an elimination game 7-5 against Central Baptist in the nightcap.
Grace advances to play No. 1 Judson at noon on Thursday after the top-seeded Eagles were bounced in the opening round. As long as Grace wins, the Lady Lancers will play again at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday.
The opening game could not have started better for Grace. Brooke Shell reached second base on the first at-bat, and Samantha Johnson laced a triple to drive in the game’s first run. Ashley Kleinbub then stepped up and belted a two-run home run, propelling Grace to an early 3-0 lead.
Oklahoma Christian threatened to respond in the bottom of the inning with runners on second and third and nobody out. But Chandler Elliott pitched her way out of a jam with two pop outs and a strikeout.
The Eagles (30-19) made good on their chances in the second inning, scoring four to take a one-run lead. OCU use a two-run homer of its own to spark its rally. The Eagles tacked on another run in the third to lead 5-3.
In the top of the fourth, Hannah Herbster and Brittany Melzoni led off the inning with singles. Herbster came home to score off the bat of Morgan Hutcheson. Clarissa Knight then drilled a two-out, two-run double up the middle to put Grace back on top 6-5.
Grace’s lead was short-lived, however, as the Eagles struck back with two in the bottom of the fourth. After an offensive showcase in the first four innings, defense took over down the stretch. Neither side could produce another run over the final three innings as OCU held on to win 7-6.
Herbster and Melzoni each batted 2-for-3 with a run scored. Kleinbub hit 1-for-3 with a run and two RBIs, and Hutcheson had a run and an RBI as well.
In the second game of the day, Grace staved off elimination with a 7-5 win over Central Baptist.
The Lady Lancers repeated their first inning from the opening game with a three-run outburst. Shell and Johnson hit safely to start the inning, and Knight drove them both home with a single. Later in the inning, Knight scored off the bat of Chelsea Whitesell.
The Mustangs (22-17) closed the gap to 3-2 in the top of the second, but Grace pounded out four more runs in the bottom of the second to take a commanding 7-2 lead. Brittany Melzoni blasted a solo home run, Johnson executed a perfect squeeze bunt to score Hutcheson, and Shell and Johnson later plated in the inning.
CBC fought back to within 7-5 with a three-run sixth inning, but that would prove to be the high point of the game for the Mustangs. Shipley shut down CBC in the seventh inning with a three-up, three-down performance to record the save.
Johnson hit 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, and Shell was 1-for-2 with two runs. Knight drove in two runs and scored once. — from Grace College Athletics