Cincinnati, Ohio – The Transylvania softball team advanced into the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game for the third straight year with a 5-2 victory over the Mount St. Joseph University Lions on Friday night at Kinder Morgan Softball Complex.
Taking on the No. 1 seed Lions in day two of the 2019 conference tournament, the No. 2 seed Pioneers broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning to take a go-ahead lead and capture a fiery victory in the winner's bracket of the tournament, vaulting into Saturday's scheduled championship game.
Having won two games in two days, the Pioneers would need to be defeated twice on Saturday to be denied the conference tournament title.
The Pioneers increased their record to 27-11 overall while the Lions suffered their 6th loss of the season and just their second in the last 30 games. Friday's contest, the fifth game of the HCAC tournament, went to the Pioneers after the teams split in the regular season at Mount St. Joseph on April 3.
Friday's winner's bracket game was contested on a significant delay due to rainy weather for most of the day in the Cincinnati area. Playing nearly seven and a half hours after Friday's originally scheduled start time, the Pioneers and Lions finally got their long-awaited rematch underway just after 6:30 p.m. local time.
Transylvania inserted Kameron Bowling on the circle, who matched a season-high 10 strikeouts the day before in a win against Franklin. The sophomore hurler continued to generate an outpouring of excellence for the most important point in the season, ringing up another 10 batters in Friday's game.
After Bowling struck out two to start the night, Shelby Gambrell delivered a home run to centerfield in the second at-bat of the game for the Pioneers to take a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second, Bowling quickly punched out two more batters to pick up four strikeouts, but a back-to-back walk and double allowed the Lions to tie up the game at 1-1.
Both lineups went 3-up, 3-down in the third inning and the Lions were again held scoreless in the top of the fourth inning with the game still tied.
Annie Schuck provided the key moment of the game in the bottom of the fourth with the Pioneers' second home run, a one-out shot to centerfield to put the Pioneers in front for good at 2-1.
Transylvania suddenly put the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth inning when Gambrell again ignited a push with a lead-off bunt and later stole second. Schuck added another dose of production as the freshman drew a walk before two Pioneers were quickly retired.
With two away, Janelle Hynes did not let the moment go to waste as the catcher drove a hard hit into right centerfield to score both Gambrell and pinch-runner Jordan Kramer to put the Pioneers ahead 4-1.
The Lions mounted a rally in the seventh inning and were able to score one run, but Bowling came up with one more strikeout and induced the final Lions batter into a flyout towards centerfield to seal up the win for the Pioneers.
Gambrell finished the day 2-for-2 at the plate with two runs as the Pioneers scored five runs on five hits. Bowling picked up the complete-game win, scattering seven hits over seven innings while only issuing one walk.
The Pioneers will play next at a time to be determined on Saturday; two more games must be played prior to the HCAC Tournament championship game, first between Defiance and Anderson in the game that follows Transylvania-Mount St. Joseph.
The winner of Defiance and Anderson will then play Mount St. Joseph, with the winner advancing to play the Pioneers in Game 8 of the HCAC Tournament. The HCAC Tournament Championship game is currently scheduled for 12:00 noon on Saturday.
Transylvania is bidding for its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the HCAC Tournament will receive the conference's NCAA automatic berth.
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