COLUMBUS, Ga. – No. 11 Trine rallied from three runs down in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 5-4 to win the tournament championship at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Leadoff Classic. The Thunder end spring break with an 11-1 record. The Thunder bested 27 other teams, including 13 ranked in the NFCA Top 25 entering tournament play.
Trine freshman Kaitlyn Clark was named the Tournament Most Valuable Player after hitting .522 during the six games with 12 hits, two doubles, five runs scored and three RBIs. Senior Andi Gasco was named the Tournament Most Valuable Pitcher after defeating defending National Champion No. 15 Pacific Lutheran and getting the win against Claremont in the finals. Gasco was 2-1 for the tournament against with a 3.78 ERA and 10 strikeouts with her only loss coming in pool play to No. 8 Illinois Wesleyan. Gasco also hit .353 at the dish with six hits, all extra-bases (three doubles, a triple and two home runs) while driving in nine and scoring four times.
In the opener, the Thunder got revenge on Illinois Wesleyan, which handed Trine its lone loss of the tournament, winning 2-1. Sophomore Bree Fuller allowed just one run on three hits and striking out five on the mound for the Thunder. At the plate, senior Lauren Harris delivered the first blow for the Thunder as she deposited a 1-1 pitch over the left field fence. Fellow senior Sarah Belote then stepped in a delivered a single. After moving to second on a sacrifice, Belote went to third on a single by sophomore Carly Searles and then scored on a passed ball.
In game two, Claremont took an early 2-0 lead in the third on a Trine error and two hits. The Thunder scored their first run in the fifth with a leadoff double by sophomore Rachel Harris. After being pinch-ran for by freshman Riley Larkin, with two outs junior Haleigh Daniels delivered a clutch hit with a single to left to score Larkin.
Claremont added two runs in the top of the seventh on a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly. The damage could have been worse, but Gasco was able to retire three in a row and made a catch-and-flip to Belote at home on a suicide squeeze to retire the runner.
In the bottom of the inning, the Thunder got it started with back-to-back walks by Rachel Harris and Belote. Then with one out, Daniels hit a hard grounder to the shortstop but the throw couldn’t be handled by the first basemen, allowing pinch-runner junior Jillian Craig to score from second. Daniels stole second on the next pitch to put runners on second and third. Searles came up clutch for Trine with a triple to right-center, clearing the bases and tying the game. Claremont elected to pitch to Clark, who had been on fire the whole tournament and she made them pay, delivering the game-winning hit up the middle to score Searles from third and making the Thunder tournament champions.