Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania softball team saw its season come to an end in shocking fashion Saturday afternoon at Hall Field in the Lexington super regional round of the Division III Softball Tournament, falling twice to the Illinois Wesleyan Titans, 4-3 in eight innings, and 6-2 in an 11-inning if-necessary game later in the afternoon.
Taking a 1-0 super regional lead into Saturday, the Pioneers saw the Titans come back twice to win a pair of games in marathon fashion.
The Pioneers' historic season comes to a close at 35-13, while the Titans improved to 36-13 and will advance to play in the Division III Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma beginning Thursday, May 25.
Down to their final out in game two of the super regional in Saturday's first game, the Titans rallied to tie the game and force it into extra innings before getting a walk-off home run in the eighth inning from Sydney Alery for a 4-3 victory.
The game two win from Illinois Wesleyan forced a third and deciding game of the regional. With the Pioneers and Titans tied after seven innings of play, the game went into 11 innings before Illinois Wesleyan pounced with four runs in the top of the 11th to clinch a ticket to the Women's College World Series.
The stunning and grueling back-to-back losses for Transylvania ended a historic run that saw the Pioneers win their first NCAA regional in program history along with their first super regional game before the pair of Saturday wins.
Super Regional Game Two
A familiar pair of pitchers entered the circles as junior pitcher Renae Morton got the start for Transy and Mackenzie Marquis toed the rubber for Illinois Wesleyan as they did on Friday. Both were effective through the first three innings of play as the game remained scoreless.
Transylvania took control of the contest in the fourth inning thanks to a pair of walks. Sophomore outfielder Shelbi Poehlein led off the inning with a walk and sophomore first baseman Jessica Powell drew a walk to put two runners on base.
Freshman catcher Janelle Hynes drove a double into center field that scored both runners and the Pioneers assumed a 2-0 lead.
The Titans cut into Transy's lead in the bottom of the sixth inning as Jillian Runyon drilled a double to the outfield, and a throwing error allowed her to spring home for a 2-1 Transylvania advantage.
The Pioneers got their reprieve in the top of the seventh inning as they took advantage of an Illinois Wesleyan throwing error that allowed freshman designated player Sydney Motell to score, putting the Pioneers ahead 3-1.
Batting second in Saturday's first game, the Titans went into the bottom of the seventh with one last breath. Illinois Wesleyan's Stephanie Prentice came up with a one-out single, but Morton induced Brittany Murphy into a pop-up for the second out of the inning.
But suddenly, the Titans found a spark.
A single from Amanda Lack moved Prentice over to third, and the Titans answered with another single to score Prentice and pull within one run, trailing 3-2. Runyon powered a single down the left field line and the Titans had their tying run, but Julie Josten was thrown out at the plate angling for the walk-off win, forcing the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth inning, junior outfielder Destiny Garcia walked and made her way to second via a sac bunt, but was thrown out at home trying to score the go-ahead run on a single from sophomore outfielder Shelby Gambrell.
In the bottom of the eighth, Alery, the first batter for Illinois Wesleyan, knocked a long drive to left field that cleared the fence and finished off the scintillating 4-3 win for the Titans.
Morton took the complete-game loss for Transylvania, yielding eight hits, one walk and zero strikeouts. Each team tallied eight hits in the game, with seven of Illinois Wesleyan's hits coming in inning six or later.
Senior infielder Shelby Bailey led the Pioneers with a 2-for-4 day.
Super Regional Game Three
Compared to the pacing of the second game of the Lexington super regional, game three saw plenty of scoring early.
The Titans continued upon their high wave from the morning game's finish by scoring the first run of the game in the top of the first inning on a sacrifice fly RBI.
Transylvania remained resilient and took the lead in the second inning on a two-run home run from Powell for a 2-1 Pioneers lead.
But Illinois Wesleyan tied up the game in the fourth inning after two throwing errors by Transylvania put runners in scoring position, and Prentice struck again with a base hit to drive in Josten.
That would be all the scoring for the rest of regulation as the Pioneers and Titans continued producing baserunners, but could not push anyone across home plate.
Transylvania had prime opportunities in the fourth and sixth innings, but stranded two runners in each of those frames to keep the game alive. The Titans placed a runner at third base with two out in the top of the seventh inning, but Morton, in a game three relief role, induced a flyout to move the game to the bottom of the seventh with a chance for the Pioneers to score.
Victory stood 90 feet away from the Pioneers as Bailey made her way to third base on a wild pitch with one out and two runners on. But Poehlein's sharply hit liner went straight into the glove of the Titans' second baseman, who threw back to third to retire Bailey and Transylvania's walk-off hopes.
Neither team could manufacture a serious threat in the eighth inning while the Titans stranded two runners in the top of the ninth inning.
Titans game three starter Brea Walker, then into her ninth inning of work, retired the Transylvania side and the game reached double-digit innings.
While Illinois Wesleyan couldn't discover its go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning, the Pioneers sought another prime opportunity in the bottom of the 10th. With two down, sophomore infielder Meg Liter delivered a single through the six hole, and Powell drew a walk. But junior pinch hitter Madison Dorsey flew out as the Pioneers stranded its 11th and 12th runners of the day.
The Titans seized the game finally in the top of the 11th inning. Prentice led off the inning with a walk, and an error allowed two runners aboard. A sac bunt from Alery moved both runners forward, and a successive string of three straight base hits handed the Titans an insurmountable 6-2 lead.
Transylvania mustered a brief rally late in the 11th, but Motell flew out for the final out of the season for the Pioneers, sending the Titans into a frenzy as they advanced to their second-consecutive Women's College World Series appearance.
Walker got the win in game three after working 10.0 innings and allowing two runs. Morton picked up the game three loss in valiant relief action, pitching the final 6.1 innings and allowing one earned run to finalize her sterling record at 21-9 for 2017.
Powell went 3-for-3 in game three with two walks to cap off her sophomore season, while Bailey gathered a hit in her final game as a Pioneer.
Alery was named the Most Outstanding Player for the super regional, while Walker was selected as the Most Outstanding Pitcher.
The Pioneers will salute their two outgoing seniors, Bailey and infielder Lauren Willett, while welcoming back eight of nine starters in 2018 as they toast their most prolific season in program history, concluding with a 4-2 record in NCAA Tournament play.
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