Lexington, Ky. – A lengthy weekend saga for the Transylvania softball team ended on Sunday afternoon with a 1-0 loss to the Franklin College Grizzlies in the championship game of the 2018 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament at Hall Field.
The Pioneers' bid to repeat as conference tournament champions was denied by the Grizzlies in their third meeting of the season and first of a readjusted conference tournament. A day-long rainout cancelled Saturday's games and triggered Sunday's games into a single-elimination format in order to complete the tournament.
Franklin advanced to the championship game by defeating Mount St. Joseph 8-3 in Sunday's first game while the Pioneers defeated Defiance for the second time in the tournament, winning 5-1 to advance to the championship game.
Playing in the third and final game at Hall Field on Sunday, Franklin prevailed in a pitcher's duel against the Pioneers to win their first HCAC tournament title in program history and clinch the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, a first-time achievement for the program from Franklin, Indiana.
Transylvania put its 32-7 record for 2018 on hold with the NCAA selection show pending Monday, May 7, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. The Pioneers will await an announcement of if they qualify for the 64-team tournament via a potential at-large bid. The Grizzlies finished Sunday at 29-10 on the year after an 11-5 run in regular-season conference play.
After the Pioneers and Grizzlies split a regular-season doubleheader at Hall Field, the two teams clashed once again for the right to advance to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon in a high-stakes battle. Senior pitcher Renae Morton got the start for the Pioneers after pitching seven efficient innings against Defiance in Sunday's first game, facing off against Franklin's Kayla Selzer.
In the first two innings, both teams went hitless as the game echoed familiar attributes of Transylvania's 10-inning, 1-0 marathon win in the first meeting of the season between the two.
In the third inning, each team placed two runners aboard, but in the end, all four runners were left stranded, keeping the game scoreless. Junior infielder Brittany Mumford and junior outfielder Shelby Gambrell each came up with base hits but the Pioneers were unable to move the baserunners any further.
The scoreboard remained blank through five innings before the pivotal moment of the championship game arrived in the sixth. With one away, Franklin's Shelby Mager smacked a double to right field. The Grizzlies' Alexis Tarver followed with a double into centerfield to score Mager for a 1-0 Franklin lead.
The Grizzlies spent the next two innings clinging to their lead as the Pioneers sought the tying run. Mumford provided a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth inning, but was stranded to end the inning.
Transylvania made one last push in the bottom of the seventh inning as junior designated player Jessica Powell hooked a double into deep right field to give the Pioneers hope. But the Pioneers flew and grounded out to end the game as the Grizzlies celebrated.
The Pioneers mustered four hits in the championship to six by the Grizzlies, with Mumford going 2-for-3 on the day. Morton took the complete-game loss as her record shifted to 18-5. The senior produced seven strikeouts, six hits, and walked one in potentially her final appearance at Hall Field, capping off a prodigious senior season in which she led the NCAA in earned-run average for the past month.
Transylvania moved to 14-5 on the year in games played at Hall Field.
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HCAC Softball Tournament 2018 All-Tournament Team
Jackie Hartman, Defiance
Mariah Huff, Defiance
Katie Tarter, Mount St. Joseph
Sara Miller, Mount St. Joseph
Renae Morton, Transylvania
Shelbi Poehlein, Transylvania
Brittany Mumford, Transylvania
Shelby Gambrell, Transylvania
Olivia Paszek, Franklin
Kayla Selzer, Franklin
Danielle Wyse, Franklin
Alexis Tarver, Franklin
Monica Collins, Franklin (Tournament Most Valuable Player)