Cincinnati, Ohio – For the second time in three seasons, the Transylvania softball team clinched the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship, winning 4-1 over the Mount St. Joseph University Lions on Saturday afternoon In the HCAC tournament championship game at Kinder Morgan Softball Complex.
The Pioneers won their third straight game in three days, marching straight through the winner's bracket of the double-elimination conference tournament to achieve their third consecutive berth into the NCAA Tournament by clinching the tournament championship.
The No. 2 seed entering the three-day tournament, Transylvania upended the No. 1 seed and tournament host, Mount St. Joseph on Saturday for the second time in two days after the Pioneers won 5-2 against the Lions the evening before.
After the Lions spent Saturday morning beating Anderson to advance into the championship game for a rematch against Transylvania, the Pioneers picked up from where they left off on Friday night, defeating the Lions with a combination of timely power hits and consistent pitching.
Transylvania moved to 28-11 overall and has won 16 out of its last 17 games entering the NCAA Tournament. Mount St. Joseph finished out the regular-season and conference tournament slate with an overall record of 35-7 and now must wait until Monday's NCAA selection show to find out if it will qualify for the tournament as a potential at-large berth team.
After having to wait seven and a half hours on Friday to play because of rainy conditions, the Pioneers got back into action against Mount St. Joseph in the late afternoon on Saturday as both teams once again met under the coating of a steady drizzle.
With two away in the bottom of the first, Annie Schuck continued her hot slugging tournament habits with a solo home run shot, placing the Pioneers in front 1-0.
Starting pitcher Kameron Bowling retired the first seven hitters of the day she faced before issuing a walk and a two-out double to the Lions as Mount St. Joseph tied up the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third inning.
Despite allowing the tying run, Bowling remained steady throughout the rest of the afternoon as she followed up a pair of complete-game wins on Thursday and Friday with another on Saturday in what may have been her most efficient game of the tournament. The third-inning hit was the only hit of the day the sophomore allowed as her performance from the circle put the Pioneers in prime position to pull ahead soon thereafter.
The tie didn't last long as the game shifted to the top of the fourth inning where the Pioneers began to gradually pull away. Meg Liter speared her second home run of the tournament and the Pioneers' fifth in three games to give Transylvania a 2-1 lead. Bowling then retired the side in the bottom of the fourth to inch Transylvania closer to the championship.
The Pioneers delivered the final blow in the top of the fifth inning as Brittany Mumford drew a one-out walk and Schuck later also drew a walk to put two runners on with two away. Liter authored one of the final chapters to a seamless conference tournament for the Pioneers with a two-run double to left center to score both Pioneer runners for a 4-1 lead.
The Lions could not find an answer for Bowling over the final three innings and a three-up, three-down seventh inning delivered the tournament championship to the Pioneers for the first time since the 2017 season when they won the tournament at Anderson University.
After pitching all 20 innings of the tournament for the Pioneers and leading them to three straight victories, Bowling was named the HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Along with Bowling, Liter, Schuck, and Shelby Gambrell were the other Pioneers selected to the HCAC All-Tournament Team.
Liter finished the day 2-for-4 while Becca Messing also compiled two hits for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers finished the 2019 season winning three out of four meetings against the Lions after splitting their regular-season conference series on April 3 in Cincinnati, followed by back-to-back wins on consecutive days in the conference tournament.
By clinching a berth into the NCAA Tournament, the Transylvania softball team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons for the first time in the history of the program.
Transylvania will now await their assignment in the upcoming NCAA Division III Softball Tournament which begins next weekend. The Pioneers will find out their regional placement and first-round opponent on Monday, May 6 during the NCAA's selection show. The selection show will be broadcast live via NCAA.com.
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