SALISBURY, Md. -- No. 4 Salisbury will go somewhere no squad in program history has been before -- an NCAA super regional. The Sea Gulls picked up an 8-2 win against Manhattanville on Sunday in the championship game of the Salisbury, Maryland Regional of the NCAA Division III softball championship to take their next step toward a national championship.
Salisbury entered Sunday's game undefeated in the double-elimination regional, while Manhattanville had taken a loss on Friday. Needing to win just one of a possible two games, the Sea Gulls (38-3) grabbed the win in the first game, as Salisbury beat each of the other three teams in the regional once to claim the title.
The regional title sets up a super-regional showdown with No. 5 Christopher Newport next Friday and Saturday. The NCAA Division III tournament began a new format this year, with smaller four-team regional tournaments feeding into eight head-to-head super regionals.
"We're really happy to have won this region," Salisbury Head Coach Margie Knight said. "Four really good teams played hard ball the whole time, played tough."
The Sea Gulls, who had been held to six runs in their first two regional victories, would strike first on Sunday, as sophomore Molly Simpson drove in another key run. In the top of the second inning, junior Rebecca Hoey drew a walk from Manhattanville starter Alyssa Taylor, and would advance to second on Angela Malgieri's single up the middle.
Simpson stepped up next, ripping the first offering up the middle, allowing Hoey to come home from second and pushing Malgieri to third.
The single was the first of three hits on the day for Simpson, who finished regionals with a .556 batting average (5-for-9), six RBI and a home run to be named the Most Outstanding Player.
On the next pitch, Simpson took off for second base, prompting a throw from catcher Delores Diemeke. Second baseman Kirsten Savage stepped in front of the second base bag to cut off the throw, but dropped the ball. As soon as the ball came off Diemeke's glove, Malgieri broke for home, sliding to the outside of home plate to get in for the insurance run and a 2-0 lead.
The Valiants would strike back in the bottom of the third, taking advantage of a Sea Gull miscue. Brittany Deieso drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third when Rosaria Callara hit a dribbler up the right side. Salisbury pitcher Rachel Johnson pounced on the ball, but her toss to Simpson, the second baseman covering first, was low and got away, putting the two runners at the corners with one out.
A safety squeeze from Alyx Scapperotti brought home Deieso, cutting the Salisbury lead in half. The run was all the Valiants (29-10) would get until adding one more in the seventh inning as Johnson surrendered just two hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Salisbury broke things open in the top of the fourth inning, taking advantage of two more Manhattanville errors to bring home four runs on a pair of hits with the big knock a two-run single to right field by sophomore Kim Dorsey, capping the scoring in the frame.
The Sea Gulls would add two more runs, on an RBI single from Simpson and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Malgieri.
Malgieri, who scored three times and drove in two during the tournament, Johnson and senior first baseman Harley Hill, who went 4-for-10 ripping three doubles, were named to the All-Tournament team.
Salisbury will be off until Friday when the super regional against Christopher Newport will begin at one of the two schools, to be announced on Monday. The best-of-three series will begin on Friday, with game one. The second and third game, if necessary, will be played on Saturday.