Linfield blows by SUNY-Cortland
Red Dragons have 29-game unbeaten streak snapped with los
SALEM, Va. – Back-to-back home runs by Karleigh Prestianni and Alex Hartmann provided the knockout punch for the Linfield Wildcats, who moved a step closer to their second NCAA national championship with a 10-0 five-inning whitewash of SUNY-Cortland Friday in the opening game of the Division III Championship at Moyer Sports Complex.
The Wildcats set a team record with their 46th win and advanced in the winners bracket to play Texas-Tyler (39-11) on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
The Wildcats’ script was a familiar one: Score early, play defense and let lefthander Claire Velaski perform her magic from the circle.
Velaski held the Red Dragons without a hit until the fifth, but by then the Wildcats had built a double-digit lead.
Against a red-hot Velaski, it was too little, too late. Cassie Kardias singled to right-center field to break up Velaski’s bid for a no-hitter, and after Meaghan Kohler reached base on a fielder’s choice, Linfield’s long-armed senior slammed the door by striking out Nicole Gallo and Katie Fusco -- both swinging -- to end the game.
Velaski, winner of seven postseason games this spring, improved to 24-1.
“Claire’s been great for us all year. We have a really deep pitching staff and we haven’t really had to use it,” said Wildcats coach Jackson Vaughan. “We feel really good about our No. 2 and 3 pitchers. We kinda thought going into the playoffs we would use all three of them, sort of a three-headed monster, but Claire has been pitching so well we scrapped that and said, ‘If you’re going to pitch shutouts every game, let’s just keep you throwing.'”
Eighth-ranked Cortland (40-4-1) saw its 29-game unbeaten streak end and fell into the losers bracket of the eight-team double-elimination tournament.
Prestianni and the Wildcats piled up 11 hits on Cortland hurlers Lyndsay Rowell and Morgan Kuhn.
Named a second team All-American a day earlier, Prestianni went 3 for 3 in the game, driving in five runs. Her leadoff single through the right side began a six-run landslide in the second inning.
Kayla Hubrich notched a ground-out RBI before Jaydee Baxter and Staci Doucette each planted run-scoring singles to put the Wildcats in front 4-0. Still in the second inning, Prestianni returned to the plate to deliver a two-run single down the left-field line and the Wildcats were looking every bit as impressive as their 4-0 run through the Pella (Iowa) Regional.
“Our lineup is really producing all the way through. Really, our No. 1 through 7 hitters are pretty dang good,” said Wildcats coach Jackson Vaughan. “When they are all playing pretty good, we’re going to score a lot of runs. We’ve had all them giving us quality at-bats.”
Emilee Lepp was 2 for 3 with a double, one of eight Wildcats with at least one hit.