Softball Lady ‘Cats advance to Atlantic Region final

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – The West Virginia Wesleyan (38-17-1) softball team kept their season alive by winning 3-1 over Fairmont State (23-26) in an elimination game on Friday in the NCAA Atlantic Regional I Tournament.
The region’s number one seed, Kutztown, bested the Lady Bobcats in extra inning earlier in the day. With a win over Fairmont State, the Lady Bobcats will compete for a chance to advance to the NCAA Super Regional. WVWC will need two wins over the host school Saturday to qualify for the Super Regional.
Kutztown 4, WVWC 3 – 8 inn.
The two teams could not get any offense going in the first two innings. With two outs, Grace Hightower and Molly Osborne drew walks. With Alyssa Souders at the plate, the game was paused for over an hour and a half due to a rain delay. Souders completed her at bat and drew the Lady Bobcats’ third walk of the inning to load the bases. Taylor Swartz blasted a double off the center field fence to clear the bases and boost the Lady Bobcats to a 3-0 lead.
WVWC starter Abigail O’Shields retired the first nine Golden Bears she faced. Kutztown erased the Lady Bobcat lead to one after a home run in the fourth inning. WVWC went down in order in the fifth inning. Swartz made a spectacular diving play in foul ground to grab the second out of the fifth inning as part of a 1-2-3 Kutztown fifth inning. The Lady Bobcats were up one run through five innings. Kutztown knotted the score at three following a two-out hit in the sixth inning.
Gracie Payne pinch hit and lined a hit to right field to start the seventh inning for the Lady Bobcats. Destiny Alvarado successfully moved pinch runner Jenna Gomez to second base. Kiley Turner smoked a line drive to center field. The Kutztown center fielder made a running catch and doubled off the Lady Bobcats to end the WVWC scoring threat. Kutztown strung together a pair of hits in the seventh inning. Hannah Hudson sent the game into extra innings after stranding a runner at second base.
Grace Hightower singled to left center with one out in the eighth inning. The Lady Bobcats bounced into a double play and were held scoreless in the top of the eighth. Kutztown’s first two hitters collected base hits and set up first and third with no outs. The Golden Bears drove in the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly and won the game in extra innings, 4-3.
Five Lady Bobcats (Hightower, Swartz, Morgan Norris, Payne and Lauren Niglio) collected hits. Swartz had the big hit in the third inning that scored three runs. O’Shields was credited a no-decision and threw 5.2 innings. The lefty struck out five Golden Bears and allowed three hits on three earned runs.
Wesleyan manufactured a run with two outs in the third inning. Hightower poked a single up the middle and then swiped second base. Osborne drove a pitch to center field that gave Wesleyan the lead. With the Lady Bobcats hitting in the fourth inning, the rains came, and another 90-minute rain delay ensued.
Osborne came through in the clutch again and scored Paije Bragg with a two-out single up the middle. WVWC led by two runs after five innings. Wesleyan added an insurance run in the sixth inning when Alvarado connected on a pitch that brought home Shelby Kennedy. Fairmont State responded with a solo home run in the bottom half of the sixth inning that cut the Lady Bobcat lead to two.
Osborne kept her big day at the plate going with a two-out double to right center. The Lady ‘Cats were unable to capitalize and took the field with a two-run lead in the final frame. O’Shields put away the first two Fighting Falcons away to start the inning. With two outs, Fairmont State powered a double to stay alive. O’Shields stepped up and forced a weak popup to send the Lady Bobcats to the final day of the regional tournament.
Osborne totaled three hits and a pair of RBIs. Hightower earned her 30th multi-hit game of the season with two base knocks. Alvarado had an RBI hit and Niglio rounded out the WVWC offense with a hit.
O’Shields went the distance and surrendered just one run. The southpaw kept the Fairmont State offense in check and sat down three Fighting Falcons on strikeouts.
Up Next
West Virginia Wesleyan softball will play in the Atlantic Region I final Saturday (May 13) versus host #20 Kutztown at 10 a.m.

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