TYLER, Tex. – Freshman No. 9 hitter Krista Colussi tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-out, two-run double and Greta Wilker followed one inning later with a game-ending RBI double with two out in the bottom of the eighth to send third-seeded Emory University to the championship round of the 2019 NCAA Division III national softball tournament with a 3-2 victory over eighth-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University Sunday afternoon at Suddenlink Field on the campus of the University of Texas at Tyler.
Sophomore righty Morgan Bolduk (Vernon) led 2-0 and took a three-hitter into the bottom of the seventh inning for Eastern (36-13), which needed a win to remain alive. With runners on first and second and two out, Colussi, a .137 hitter, ripped a 1-1 pitch to the base of the center field wall with her second double to tie the game. With two out and a runner on first in the eighth, Wilker stroked her first hit of the game to center to plate the winning run and keep Emory (39-12) unbeaten and send it into the championship round.
Eastern, which shares third place in the eight-team tournament, had lost a 7-6 decision to fourth-seeded Texas Lutheran University Friday and in order to reach the best-of-three championship round beginning Monday, would have needed to defeat Emory twice Sunday.
Emory and Texas Lutheran will play twice Monday. A split will set up a one-game winner-take-all contest Tuesday. Emory reaches the championship round having beaten the No. 6 (Randolph-Macon College), No. 7 (Trine University) and No. 8 seeds. Eastern had beaten No. 1 seed University of St. Thomas, 2-1, Thursday, and after a 7-6 loss to Texas Lutheran Friday night, eliminated No. 2 seed Illinois Wesleyan University, 1-0, Saturday.
It was, remarkably, only Eastern's third extra-inning game of the season, the Warriors having had won the first two.
Bidding to become the first Eastern pitcher in program history to win as many as eight NCAA tournament games in one season, Bolduk (22-3) never allowed more than one hit in an inning through six. With two out and a runner on first in the seventh, pinch hitter Lana Herrmann kept the inning going with a ground ball single that escaped the grab of Eastern senior second baseman Jackie Lewis (Mystic) that set up Colussi's game-tying blast.
Sarah Katz led off the bottom of the eighth for Emory with her first hit of the game -- a soft single to center – and after junior shortstop Sara Pisanelli (Wallingford) fielded ground balls and forced consecutive baserunners with throws to Lewis covering second, Wilker drove an 0-1 pitch through the gap in left-center to score Sami Feller from first without a slide.
Batting leadoff, Bolduk doubled down the left field line to open the game and came home from third on freshman third baseman Julia SanGiovanni's (East Haven) opposite-field single to right to stake herself to a quick 1-0 lead. Junior catcher Megan Hodgdon's (Cheshire) fifth home run of the season – which tied the program season team record of 33 – leading off the fifth made it 2-0.
Following the home run, however, Emory pitcher Toko Miller (10-3) allowed only one baserunner the rest of the way to give her team an opportunity to win. Hodgdon and Bolduk each had two of Eastern's five hits off Miller, who fanned one and walked one. Bolduk doubled twice, was robbed of a third hit on a nice grab by Emory centerfielder Jenna Wilson three batters after Hodgdon's solo home run, and lined sharply to short with one out in the eighth.
Colussi had the first hit off Bolduk with a leadoff double in the third, but Lewis made a sensational driving catch off a popup by Wilson, and dove to the bag to double the runner up. In the fifth, freshman Mattie Ryan bounced a single to center to open the inning but Bolduk got a called strikeout on Colussi to end the threat.
Bolduk threw 76 of her 115 pitches for strikes. She pitched an eight-hitter, fanning three and walking one.
In four tournament games, Bolduk pitched all but 4 2/3 innings. In 24 innings, she was 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA, nine strikeouts and four walks. Bolduk started all nine NCAA post-season games, completing eight with two shutouts in 59 innings with seven victories and a 1.90 ERA. She fanned 26 and walked ten and held batters to a .221 average.
In the nationals, Hodgdon led Eastern with a .500 batting average (5-of-10), with SanGiovanni at .385 (5-of-13) and 1.000 on 14 chances in the field. Junior centerfielder Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) batted .385 (5-of-13) and Bolduk .357 (5-of-14). Junior lefty Morgan Sanson (Thomaston) made one pitching appearance in place of Bolduk against Texas Lutheran, giving up only one hit and two walks with two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings in a game where Eastern scored three times in the seventh but left the winning run on base.
The conference, regional, and Super Regional championships as well as the berth in the national semifinals and 7-2 NCAA tournament record re-establishe the program -- which had sustained three straight losing seasons -- as a viable challenger to the national championship. It marked the eighth time in the last 35 years that the Warriors have won at least 35 games in a season. This year, two freshmen and two sophomores were major contributors, with Lewis the only senior starter that will be lost to graduation.