ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Senior Nina Korn slammed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to snap a 0-0 tie and carry Rochester (N.Y.) to a 3-0 victory against Rowan in game two of the Super Regionals in the NCAA Division III Softball Championships.
Rochester won the best-of-three series 2-0. The Yellowjackets advance to the NCAA Division III national championships in Tyler, Texas. The tournament will begin on Thursday and conclude its double-elimination format on either May 26 or 27.
This is Rochester's first trip to softball's final round. The Yellowjackets are making their fifth appearance in the NCAAs this season. The program is 17 years old.
Freshman Eleni Wechsler earned the victory. She pitched 8.1 innings, allowing two hits, walked two, and struck out eight. Junior Brittany Grage pitched 0.2 innings of relief, allowing one hit. Wechsler is 15-4. She pitched the first seven innings. Grage started the bottom of the eighth. She pitched to four batters. Wechsler returned for two more hitters to finish the inning, then set down the Profs in order in the ninth.
Rowan's Krysti Maronski scattered four hits, walked two, and struck out 16 in nine innings. She finished the season 23-7.
For Korn, the home run was her 14th this season. In Thursday's opener, she hit a three-run HR that tied the single-season mark she set a year ago.
Maronski dominated in stretches. She set down the first 10 hitters, six by strikeout. In the fourth, she walked Meg Hennessy and Korn, then struck out Wechsler and Lauren Muni.
"She's changed who she was as a pitcher," Rowan head coach Kim Wilson said. "She's doubled the number of strikeouts she had from last year and has been able to keep hitters off balance."
Rochester didn't get a hit off Maronski until Shelby Corning singled to center with two down in the fifth. She retired 10 in a row after that before the Yellowjackets broke the tie in the ninth.
Wechsler worked out of a jam in the third. Shannon Costello doubled to the base of the right field wall and Demariz Mercado reached when her ground ball to third bounced off Grage's glove. Wechsler struck out Shilah Snead, retired Jennifer Arcella on a fly to right, then struck out Ashley DeYoung.
Costello nearly scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. She singled through the right side and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Grage. After Mercardo fouled out, Snead grounded to Wechsler at third. She looked Costello back to second, then threw to first. Snead beat the throw and Costello was able to run to third, beating the relay across the field. Snead stole second. Arcella grounded to Tayler Fravel who threw home and Alyssa Murillo blocked the plate with Mercado called out on a close play. Arcella was able to advance to second.
Wechsler returned to the mound and Grage went back to third base. DeYoung walked, but Wechsler struck out Alysa Romero to end the inning. "That stop on defense was big," Rochester shortstop Meghan Hennessy said.
"The bottom of their lineup hit the ball hard," Rochester coach Margaret Yerdon-Grange said. "That's why I put Brittany in to start the eighth. Eleni did well against the top of the order. The strikeout of Romero was a big play."
In the Rochester ninth, Fravel lined a single up the middle leading off. That brought up Hennessy and Rowan crept forward, anticipating a bunt.
Only one thought crept through Hennessy's mind as she approached the plate. "Don't pop it up," she said, smiling. "[I wanted to] make sure I got it down. If I'm safe, that's good, but get it on the ground."
Hennessy bunted right in front of the plate and beat the throw to first for a single. Korn came to the plate with two on. Maronski's first changeup was out of the zone. The second was flat and Korn hit a long home run over the centerfield fence.
"I was focused on Meg moving Tayler over," Korn said. "I was looking for anything I can poke through the infield. I felt if I could make solid contact through the infield, I could score Tayler."
In the Rowan ninth, Wechsler struck out Maronski. "After the first out, we all took a deep breath," Hennessy said. Catcher Meagan Lee grounded the ball to deep short where Hennessy's throw beat her to first base for the second out. The infielders headed to the mound for just a moment. "Eleni's a very calm person," Hennessy said.
Wechsler induced Phillips to hit a soft popup to Grage, ending the game.