Mount Berry, Ga. – A magical postseason run continues for the Transylvania softball team, who overpowered the Berry College Vikings 8-0 in five innings to win the Mount Berry regional of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Kay Williams Field.
Transylvania shut out Berry, the No. 2 ranked team in the country for the second time in 25 hours in Sunday's regional championship game. The win vaults the Pioneers to new heights, their first super regional in program history where they will face the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans on Friday, May 19 in a best-of-three series in Lexington, Kentucky. A scheduled 4:00 p.m. first pitch will commence Friday's super regional at Hall Field.
The winner of the super regional will advance to the NCAA Division III Softball World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Coasting through the winner's bracket after defeating Emory & Henry 4-1 on Friday, and the Vikings 6-0 on Saturday, the Pioneers wasted no time in wrapping up the championship in their first of two chances on Sunday.
The outstanding weekend for the Pioneers marks the first time in program history that Transylvania has won an NCAA regional, as well as winning more than one game in a regional.
As they did the day before, the Pioneers received a pinpoint pitching performance from junior pitcher Renae Morton, who picked up her 20th win of the season, and her sixth complete-game victory in 2017. And like the day before, Morton's pitching excellence was augmented by a high dosage of offensive production as the Pioneers collected seven hits to two for Berry.
The Pioneers' overall record moved to 34-11 as their season-high winning streak grew to 10 games following Sunday's win.
In a game that was surprisingly condensed to many outside observers, the scoreboard flashed zeroes until the third inning. Morton continued her activity of frustrating Vikings hitters from the day before, allowing just one walk and one hit over the first three innings to keep Berry in check.
Transylvania began making its move in the bottom of the third inning. Two of the first three Transy batters in the inning reached base via walks against Berry starter Kassie Howard. The Pioneers took control when senior infielder Shelby Bailey drew the third straight walk of the inning to load the bases with one out.
Freshman designated player Sydney Motell delivered with another late-season clutch moment as she laced a base hit into right field to score sophomore infielder Brittany Mumford for a 1-0 Transylvania lead. Two batters later, a wild pitch got away from the Berry catcher and Bailey scored from third to push Transylvania ahead, 2-0.
Morton made quick work of the Berry side in the top of the fourth inning and the Pioneer offense went back to work in the bottom of the frame. Howard's day came to an end after loading the bases, and Bailey subsequently drew a walk against reliever Marie Collop for a 3-0 lead. While the Pioneers stranded three runners to conclude the inning, Morton sandwiched one hit between three flyouts in the top of the fifth inning to maintain the three-run Transy lead.
For a finale that few saw coming, sophomore outfielder Shelbi Poehlein led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a base hit into right field, and sophomore first baseman Jessica Powell placed down a bunt to put two runners on with one out.
Berry appeared closer to escaping the inning without allowing a run when the Vikings struck out junior outfielder Madison Dorsey for the second out of the inning. But freshman catcher Janelle Hynes delivered a base hit to score Poehlein from third to give Transylvania a 4-0 cushion and continue the scoring habit.
After the Pioneers forced Berry to make a second pitching change, Mumford was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded yet again. Sophomore Shelby Gambrell then put the game out of reach with a two-run single into center field to bring home Hynes and Powell, giving Transylvania a 6-0 lead.
Bailey then drew the seventh and final walk of the day issued by Berry to put three runners on. Motell solidified her clutch reputation as she hooked a double into center field. As the ball dropped into center field, Mumford and Gambrell sprinted to home plate and into the Pioneers' first super regional in the history of Transylvania softball.
Motell and Powell each had two hits for the Pioneers, while Gambrell and Motell combined for five runs batted in. Morton tallied three strikeouts against one walk and gave up just two hits to Berry, whom the Pioneers shut out 12-0 over a two-day span.
Berry's exceptional season came to an end at 40-4, with the Pioneers forcing two shutouts on the Vikings, who had previously gone over one full year without enduring a shutout. Transylvania moved to 6-0 between their conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament regional.
The Pioneers will next face Illinois Wesleyan on May 19 in the super regional round beginning at 4:00 p.m.
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All-Tournament Team (Transy selections)
Renae Morton, P (Regional MVP)
Sydney Motell, DP
Jessica Powell, 1B
Shelbi Poehlein, OF