VIRGINIA BEACH -- It wasn't too surprising that Virginia WesleyanCollege's softball Marlins already had three stolen bases only two batters into Friday's NCAA Division III contest against the Dolphins of the College of Staten Island.
VWC has produced more stolen bases than any other team in the nation and increased its season total to 143 with a total of four steals in a 9-3 victory before a large crowd at Marlins Field. Senior Tori Higginbotham (Glen Allen/J. R. Tucker) two steals and Kayla Malkos (Roanoke/Cave Spring) and Megan Zahnd (Chesapeake/Grassfield) had one each.
No. 9 Virginia Wesleyan (38-5) advances to Saturday's winner's bracket game against Hampton Roads rival Christopher Newport University (36-6). CNU's Captains, ranked No. 5 nationally, defeated Catholic University 6-1 behind a 13-hit production. Catholic (23-14) and Staten Island (23-16) will meet in an elimination game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Marlins outhit Staten Island 11-8, jumping on the Dolphins early with a 6-1 hit production in the first two innings to build a 7-0 lead. Seniors came through with big hits in those two innings, including a two-run single from Season Dailey (Norfolk/Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox) and a run-scoring double from Lindsey Inzana (Chesapeake/Grassfield)in the first. Higginbotham evoked a roar from the crowd with a solo home run, her seventh of the season, over the left field fence in the second inning, which included a double from sophomore Kayla Dost (Bristow/Nokesville Brentsville)and a two-run single from Inzana
State Island, the reigning champion of the City University of New York Athletic Conference, averted the shutout in the top of the third when the Dolphins used two hits and a VWC error to help plate two runs. Alyssa Setteducato (Staten Island, N.Y./St/ John Villa) and Jacqueline Cautela (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Joseph by the Sea) led of the inning with consecutive singles. Setteducato scored on a wild pitch and Cautela tallied on an error.
VWC took the runs back in the bottom of the fifth with the help of four hits. Taylor Galvin (Virginia Beach/Kempsville), Courtney Bogan (Round Hill/Woodgrove), and Zahnd all singled in the inning, and Andrea Shannon (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) belted a double to help score the runs.
Senior MacKenzie Creech (Hillsborough, N.C./Orange) turned in a solid effort from the pitching circle, improving her season record to 15-0. She struck out one batter, eight hits, and allowed one earned run.
Victoria Procopio (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Joseph Hill) led the Dolphins with a pair of singles.
Inzana, Dost, and Zahnd topped VWC hitting with two each.
Cautela started in the pitching circle for Staten Island and worked 4.1 innings. She walked three and gave up 11 hits and nine earned runs in the loss that dropped her record to 16-7. Procopio finished on the pitching runner for the Dolphins.