SALEM, Va. -- Armstrong Atlantic State University, ranked 19th nationally, hit a pair of home runs and turned three double plays in picking up a 5-1 win against West Chester University on the first day of the 2014 NCAA Division II Softball Championships.
West Chester got on the board first with a solo home run by Erin Quense in the top of the third inning, but the Pirates quickly answered with a run in the bottom of the third when Hannah Reppert drew a bases-loaded walk.Armstrong took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on solo home runs by Haley Ellis and Alexis Mercer. Mercer's home run was the 23rd of the season, setting a new single-season Peach Belt Conference mark.
The Pirates protected their lead by turning double plays in the fourth and fifth innings -- the fifth-inning twin killing helping Armstrong get out of a two-on, no-out jam.
"We were very solid defensively today. We had a couple of jams that we got into, and those [double plays] got us out of it," said Armstrong head coach Ted Evans. "The left side of our infield is so good, and between Kacie and Alexis, you're gonna get those plays. They just make it look routine."
An RBI double by Reppert tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, then Mercer delivered an RBI single in the sixth to make the score 5-1.
With a runner on and one out in the top of the seventh inning, the Rams' Jillian Murray hit a line drive to shortstop, which Mercer caught and then threw on to first to double off the runner for the game-ending third double play of the contest.
Ollivia McLemore (25-6) limited West Chester to just three hits and one run to win her eighth game out of her last nine decisions. Kim Murl (23-11) took the loss for the Rams, giving up 10 hits and five runs -- three earned -- while walking one.
Mercer went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI to lead the Pirates at the plate, while Lacye Walker had two hits and Reppert drove in a pair of runs.
"Last year, we played well after the first game -- until we played the same team again," said Evans. "Just getting off to a good start gets you on track and makes you feel good about yourself. We feel like we've got a chance to do something this year."