Chris. Newport one game from title
Captains get defense, offense and pitching in impressive win
SALEM, Va. -- In typical come-from-behind fashion, Christopher Newport defeated Texas-Tyler 9-7 on Sunday at the Division III Championship at the Moyer Sports Complex.
Coach Keith Parr's squad is just one win from capturing the first national title in the 27-year history of the program, and the first in any sport other than track and field in school history.
"We feel great, it's amazing to be where we are right now," Parr said after the triumph. "It's a result of hard work and confidence. We know what we are capable of."
CNU still has not lost in the double elimination tournament, and would have to go down Monday as well as Tuesday to have the title wrestled away.
CNU fell behind the Patriots early, as UT-Tyler scored three runs in the top of the first inning. The Captains bounced back with a run in the bottom of the first when junior Jennifer Falin hit a sacrifice fly scoring freshman Kelley Foate to make it 3-1.
After the Patriots added a run in the top of the third to make it 4-1, the comeback swung into full gear.
Christopher Newport sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third and scored five times to make it 6-4. Falin again had a hand in the big inning with an RBI single. Sophomore Chelsea Mitchell added an RBI single and freshman Taylor Dillow knocked in two with a single as well.
With the Captains leading 6-4 in the top of the fourth inning, CNU center fielder Ashley Mani made what was described as the play of the tournament. With two runners on base, UT-Tyler's Joey Cronin blasted a shot to deep center, sending Mani to the fence. The senior timed her jump perfectly and robbed Cronin of a three-run home run that would have vaulted the Patriots back ahead.
"I jumped at the fence and really couldn't see the ball because my glove was in the way," Mani said. "I looked in my glove and there it was."
The Patriots would not go down without a fight.
UT-Tyler came back with a three-run fifth inning to grab the lead back at 7-5. Christopher Newport then sealed the victory with a three-run sixth inning for the 9-7 final score.
CNU has relied heavily on senior All-American Jessie Atkinson and junior Jennifer Falin in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the batting order. They both delivered again in the sixth inning outburst as Atkinson belted a run-scoring double to tie the game at 7-7. It was then Falin who stepped up and blasted her 14th home run of the season, and fifth of the NCAA Tournament, to give the Captains the 9-7 lead and eventual win.
"I just wanted to put the ball in play...just make contact," Falin said. "When I hit it, I knew it would be close and then I saw it go out."
CNU used three different pitchers in the win. Sophomore Whitney Haller entered the game in the fifth and closed it out by retiring six of the last seven UT-Tyler batters of the game. Haller improved to 20-4 on the year.
"Obviously it's a nerve-wracking situation," Parr continued in reference to using three pitchers. "You're always trying to make the right decision...we have confidence in all of our pitchers and they all work very hard."
The Captains are now 38-10 and have won seven consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament. When asked about his team's attitude going into the national title game Monday, Parr was typically focused.
"Every game is a new game, we have to turn the page and take care of business."