Trailing in the seventh, Molloy battled back to force extras and take the 5-4 win
SALEM, Va. -- Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, and down to its last out, Molloy pushed across three runs to tie it, on five hits, and added another in extras, to secure a thrilling 5-4 come-from-behind walk-off victory on Thursday against third-ranked and reigning national champion Valdosta State in the NCAA Division II National Championship at the Moyer Complex in Salem, Va.
In the rally to knot up the game, sophomore second baseman Brenda Lee and freshman catcher Milan Botte led things off with back-to-back singles to get the tying run to the plate. Freshman third baseman Tracey Balinskas then scored both of them with a two-RBI single into the left-center field gap, making it a 4-3 contest.
Junior designated player Dayna White would follow Balinskas with the game-tying hit, an RBI double to the opposite field, which would send the match into extra frames. In the eighth, after a one-two-three top half by the opposition, the Lions (53-12), behind a pair of singles by senior starting pitcher Megan Butterworth and senior outfielder Jeana Frey, sandwiched with a hit batsman, loaded the bases.
"I was trying to do anything I could to move [Balinskas] over," White said. "I wasn't trying to score [Balinskas] or anything, but get her to second to keep us alive in the game."
That set the stage for Lee to pick up the game-winning hit. With a 3-1 count, the Corona, Calif. native hit into an RBI fielder's choice to score Butterworth, and propel Molloy to its first triumph at the NCAA Division II National Championship.
Valdosta State (46-12) did strike first in the game, as sophomore utility Courtney Albritton lived up to her billing as a home run hitter in the third. Entering the contest with 19 long balls, Albritton took a one-out inside offering from Butterworth deep to left-center to give the Blazers a 1-0 edge.
Two innings later, VSU tacked on some insurance to make it a three-run contest. Albritton and senior outfielder Morgan Johnson ripped an RBI double, and triple, respectively, to account for the scoring.
In the last of the fifth, however, Molloy got one back, closing the gap to 3-1. With the bags full, and two away, Botte earned a walk to plate the Lions' first run of the match. Valdosta State eventually re-claimed its three-run cushion (4-1) in its portion of the seventh though, when junior utility Shelby Altman floated a two-out RBI double along the left-field line.
From the rubber, senior pitcher Kelley Jansen claimed the win in relief. She tossed three innings of one-run, one-hit, four-walk, three-strikeout ball. The starter, Butterworth, took the no-decision (5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO). On the other hand, freshman hurler Hanna Lythberg was saddled with the loss for the Blazers. She yielded two hits, and the deciding run, in 0.2 frames of work.
In reference to her appearance, Jansen replied: "To start, I stayed hydrated throughout the game. Megan [Butterworth] and I continue to back each other up every day, and I had confidence in our batters [to score runs]."
"I am really proud of the comeback by the kids. We did a great job," Head coach Susan Cassidy-Lyke said. "We squandered some early opportunities and we knew that. But, when it counted, we came up big."