SALEM, Va. -- It was a big day in the circle for Saginaw Valley thanks to one pitcher who wheeled off a duo of amazing performances to give the Cardinals a two-win day on Saturday. Allowing only five hits and throwing 25 strikeouts on the day, Jade Fulton was in her zone as Saginaw Valley first defeated C.W. Post 2-0 and then knocked out North Georgia 7-1.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the Cardinals, but they have found the fight in them to make them one of the final four teams in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.

“It’s amazing,” Fulton said. “This is what you dream of when you are a little girl seeing it on TV and this is where you want to be. To actually live it is so amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything better my senior year.”

We didn’t end the way I wanted things to end, you want to win the last game you ever play. That’s just ideal and what everybody wants to do. … And I know that the underclassmen, and the juniors and sophomores have grown so much this year, and they’ve learned so much from this year that this team is going to be here for years to come. People better watch out, because North Georgia isn’t done.
-- Sarah Phillips, North Georgia pitcher

Pushing through is nothing new for the Cardinals. Before Saturday, four games in the NCAA tournament were decided in the last three innings in their favor. Saturday’s second game against North Georgia was no different, as the Cardinals’ dominating sixth and seventh innings were the deciding factors in the effort. 

“The first thought that comes into my head is that these girls are fighters,” coach Tim Rousse said about the North Georgia win. “I mean we had no signs of hitting since we have been here, so we changed it up and went really light between games, and it can’t hurt because what we were doing wasn’t working. … These girls just like to fight. They don’t want it to end.”

Fighting back is also something that Fulton is all too familiar with, having to sit for several weeks to end last season due to illness. Other than postseason play in 2010 when Fulton was out, the Cardinals have exponentially grown each season with Fulton on the mound.

“As a player grows so does a team and I think that a majority of our team, being seniors and growing up and playing together for so many years we’re the core of the team and we hold each other together in tough situations [and that] is the key ingredient,” Fulton said.

Coming into Salem, Va., Saginaw Valley is the only unranked team, and the fury that is behind Fulton and the rest of the Cardinals is going to be a force to be reckoned with on Sunday.

“I think we just have to take it batter by batter, pitch by pitch every day,” Fulton added. “It’s not about who we play, but how we play. That’s always been our motto. We just need to come out loose and do what we do and try not to over think it.”

Best of the Day

Saginaw Valley’s Jade Fulton threw 25 strikeouts and allowed only five hits on Saturday in the Cardinals' pair of victories. Overall in the championship, Fulton has struck out 33 batters and allowed 11 hits.

Midwestern State pitcher Brittney Tanner made a difference in more ways than one on Saturday, getting two of the team’s five hits for the Mustangs in their 1-0 win against Minnesota State-Mankato.

Saginaw Valley’s Jill Peterson hit a high fly ball to short left field that fell between North Georgia’s shortstop and leftfielder due to lack of communication. This shook the Saints’ defense as the Cardinals went on to rally for six runs in the next two innings, finishing the game 7-1.

Quick Hits
• Three of the four remaining teams are making their first appearance in the championship.

• Saginaw Valley’s Jade Fulton, ranked second for strikeouts on the season for NCAA Division II, threw her 400th strikeout of the season in the Cardinals’ 2-0 win against C.W. Post.

• Saginaw Valley, the only unranked team remaining, picked up its first win in the championship on Saturday in game one versus C.W. Post.

• Midwestern State, making its first appearance in the DII Softball Championship, earned the program’s first championship win.

• IUP’s Erin Holloway finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in every pitching category, including 1,004 strikeouts, 105 complete games and 804 innings pitched.

• North Georgia’s Katherine Martin hit the Saints’ fourth home run of the championship in their 7-1 loss to Saginaw Valley. The home run was her sixth of the season.

• Midwestern State’s Kristina Gutierrez threw her 13th shutout of the season in the squad’s 3-0 win against IUP, and retired the last 10 batters she faced.

• North Georgia ended the season with the most wins in school history at 53-12, after going 1-2 at the championship for the second consecutive season. North Georgia is now 22-9 all-time in the NCAA tournament, and 4-6 in its three consecutive appearances in the championship.

• Midwestern State’s Brittney Tanner is the only pitcher in the championship who goes to bat for herself. In the two games the pitcher has thrown, she has accounted for four hits.

• Minnesota State-Mankato finished the season with the school record for wins (54), at bats (1715), runs (370) hits (600), doubles (103), RBI (336) and total bases (900).