ALLENDALE, Mich. (WFIE) -University of Southern Indiana Softball kept its hopes of a second straight national title alive Friday after suffering a 2-0 setback to No. 7 Grand Valley State University in its opening game. The No. 4-seeded Screaming Eagles rebounded to defeat No. 5-seeded Wayne State University, 2-0, in an elimination game and will face the top-seeded Lakers, once again, for the right to advance to the NCAA II Midwest Super Regional.
Grand Valley State 2, USI 0
The Lakers (46-8) scored runs in the first and second innings to take an early 2-0 lead and then hung on in a pitcher’s duel throughout the final five innings to earn the win.
USI (35-20) went with senior hurler Haylee Smith (Florence, Kentucky) to start the game as the right-hander had historically been a thorn in the Lakers’ side.
Grand Valley, however, took advantage of a lead-off bunt and a throwing error in the bottom of the first inning to eventually score the first run, then capitalized on a two-out walk and back-to-back singles to plate the second run of the contest.
Junior pitcher Jennifer Leonhardt (Louisville, Kentucky), who has struggled against the Lakers in her last two outings, came on to get USI out of the frame and proceeded to hold Grand Valley to just one hit throughout the remainder of the contest.
Despite the strong pitching effort, the Eagles could get nothing done offensively as senior second baseman Claire Johnson (Pittsboro, Indiana) led the game off with the Eagles’ only hit of the contest. USI drew four walks, but could not capitalize as it suffered the shutout loss.
Smith (7-4) took the loss for the Eagles after giving up two runs, one earned, off three hits in one-and-a-third innings of work.
Grand Valley senior pitcher Allison Lipovsky (28-2) earned the win after striking out 10 batters.
USI 2, Wayne State (34-25) 0
USI wasted little time getting on the board as back-to-back two-out doubles from sophomore outfielder Alicia Webb (Elberfeld, Indiana) and senior outfielder/pitcher Caitlyn Bradley (Forest, Indiana) led to the first run of the contest in the last half of the first inning. The Eagles tacked on another tally in the bottom of the third inning thanks to an error as the first four batters in the inning reached base.
Leonhardt (21-8), meanwhile, tied the single-season school record with her 13th complete-game shutout. She struck out nine batters and held the Warriors to just two hits en route to her 21st win of the year.
USI and Grand Valley State will meet Saturday at 11 a.m. (CDT) in the championship round of the NCAA II Midwest Region #1 Tournament. The Eagles will need to defeat the Lakers twice in order to advance to the NCAA II Midwest Super Regional.
Saturday’s games can be heard on 95.7 The Spin, while ESPN 3 will carry both contests. Live stats, audio and video links can be accessed at GoUSIEagles.com.
Courtesy: USI Athletics