Denison wins NCAC Championship
Larsen's eighth-inning home run lifts Big Red past DePauw
MEADVILLE, Pa. -- It took two championship games, but Denison won its sixth North Coast Athletic Conference tournament crown and secured its sixth berth to the NCAA tournament on Sunday. The Big Red knocked off DePauw 1-0 in the seventh game of the NCAC Tournament.
Deadlocked in a scoreless tie heading into extra innings, DePauw starter Kahla Nolan toed the rubber for her eighth inning of work. Nolan appeared in control after inducing a pop out and a strikeout for the first two outs of the frame. With two down, the Big Red turned to sophomore right fielder Heather Larsen to spark a two-out rally. The second-year outfielder didn't disappoint as she sent the first pitch from Nolan over the wall in left center field for her first-career home run. Larsen's homer put Denison three outs away from winning the title.
As exciting as the go-ahead home run was, the game-winning hit was setup by a masterful performance by sophomore pitcher Kelsey Hager and the Big Red defense. Over the course of the game, Hager retired the side in order four times, and did not to allow a hit in six innings.
With the one-run lead in hand, Hager took the circle three outs away from her 12th win of the season. DePauw led off the bottom of the eighth with a double down the line by Jamie Story. Hager was unfazed by the extra-base hit as she struck out Rachel MacBeth for the first out of the inning.
The sophomore hurler got some help from her defense as third baseman Julie Rooney secured the second out in foul territory. With two down and the game-tying run in scoring position, the Tiger's tournament life rested on the shoulders of Jen Kosinski. It appeared that the DePauw shortstop tied the game with a shot to right center, but a running over-the-should grab by senior captain Hannah Price secured the win and punched Denison's ticket to the 2012 NCAA Regional Tournament.
In the win, Hager scattered three hits and fanned seven batters. Additionally, the sophomore didn't allow a Tiger base runner to advance past second base. The Big Red offense pounded out nine hits on Nolan, including a 3-for-3 performance from senior Kait Fiore. Rachel Laughlin and Larsen each logged two hits, while Meghan Edwards and Emily Lipsitz each had a base knock.
Denison improves to 27-17 and will advance to the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last three years.