Kelly's grand slam leads West Chester past California (Pa.) into Super Regional
CALIFORNIA, Pa. -- Megan Kelly hit a grand slam, and Devon Utterback pitched a two-hitter as West Chester defeated No. 8 California (Pa.) 6-3 in the regional final of its bracket Sunday afternoon at Lilley Field to advance to the NCAA Division II Super Regionals next weekend.
West Chester (37-19) ventures into unchartered territory as the first club in school history to reach Super Regionals. Cal (38-6) saw its season come to a close, losing to the Golden Rams for the second consecutive day and the third time this season.
"I told them before the game, go through, go under, go over ... but never give up," WCU head coach Diane Lokey said afterwards. "That's what they did [Sunday]."
Kelly's grand slam, her second home run of the season, came in the top of the fifth with West Chester trailing 3-0. Erin Quense singled through the left side, and Ashley Ford came in to run for her. Laura Altenburger then drew a walk on five pitches. Cal's head coach lifted Sagl for reliever Haley Bashada.
"I had actually struggled with [Cal's] pitchers in our four previous games," Kelly explained after the game. "I just wanted to try to make good contact, and that's what happened."
Ali Vavala then laid down a sacrifice bunt that Cal's first baseman threw away, allowing Vavala to reach safely and load the bases. That is when Kelly worked the count full, fouled off another pitch, before depositing the yellow Worth softball over the left-field fence, giving West Chester a 4-3 lead.
The Rams added another tally in the sixth, taking advantage of another throwing error by the Vulcans infield. Then, Jill Murray hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh to put the visitors up 6-3.
"The bottom of our [batting] order is scrappy. They find ways to get on base and then create havoc for the defense. That's what they do."
From there, it was all Utterback (22-9). She limited Cal to just two hits, while walking three and striking out eight. A three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth by Cal's Shelby Heyd was the only mistake she made all afternoon.
"Devon pitched to the game plan [Sunday]," Lokey added. "She listened to what we told her she needed to do, and then she executed. I think with her senior experience, you are starting to see her gain confidence in her other pitches."
"Honestly, I have never experienced that kind of excitement on a softball field before," junior 1B Jill Murray said. "Everyone was so loud. And, I couldn't have asked for a better pitching performance [from Utterback]. She was great."
Six different Golden Rams rapped out a base hit. West Chester scored six runs on six hits and did not commit an error while Cal scored three runs on just two hits and committed three costly errors.
Sagl scattered five hits in seven innings, allowing only two earned runs, while walking two and striking out four. She also hit one batter. Bashada (7-3) faced two batters, but did not retire either one. She surrendered the grand slam to Kelly, which turned out to be the decisive blow.