VIRGINIA BEACH -- Taylor Galvin (Virginia Beach/Kempsville), Megan Zahnd (Chesapeake/Grassfield), and Tori Higginbotham (Glen Allen/J.R. Tucker) all belted singles in the top of the second inning Saturday to help Virginia Wesleyan College's No. 9 softball Marlins to a three-run spurt against Catholic University's Cardinals.
That trio of runs put VWC into a 3-1 lead that held up the rest of the way in an NCAA Division III elimination game as the Marlins posted a 6-3 victory. VWC advances to Sunday's 12 p.m. championship game against No. 5 Christopher Newport University which held on for a 7-6 win over the Marlins in Saturday's first game.
Senior pitcher MacKenzie Creech (Hillsborough, N.C./Orange), who improved to 16-0, directed the win from the pitching circle, backed by another solid defensive effort by her teammates. Catholic (24-15) used one hit in the first inning to help take a 1-0 lead, but CUA managed only one hit in the next five innings.
VWC (39-6) opened up a 6-1 lead in the top of the sixth helped by four hits, including an RBI single by Higginbotham and a two-run single bySeason Dailey (Norfolk/Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox). Andrea Shannon (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) and Kayla Malkos (Roanoke/Cave Spring) also singled in the three-run inning.
Catholic closed the 6-1 gap with two runs in the bottom of the seven, with the help of three hits.
VWC outhit CUA 10-5, led by two hits each by Higginbotham, Dailey, and Zahnd. Five different Cardinals recorded a single each for Catholic.
Creech struck out three batters and walked four, while allowing just four hits and three earned runs in six innings of work. Kristina Karagiorgis (Ashburn/Briar Woods) finished, striking out one and giving up just one hit.
Victoria Capozucca (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day School) pitched the distance for Catholic and dropped to 17-5. She struck out one batter, walked five and allowing 10 hits and four earned runs.
In the day's opener, CNU (37-6) jumped on the Marlins quickly, banging out six hits for six runs in the top of the first inning, including doubles by Tori Clarke (Denville, N.J./Morris Knolls) and Alexis Pope (Smithfield/Smithfield).
It might have seemed like enough at the time, but before it was all over the No. 5 ranked Captains needed a run in the top of the seventh inning to secure the win. Kelsey Lewis (Chesapeake/Hickory) singled to score Kristina McLaughlin (Virginia Beach/Ocean Lakes) for the run that turned out to be the difference.
That score gave CNU a 7-4 lead, but the Marlins came back big. Kayla Dost (Bristow/Nokesville/Brentsville) doubled to left and Lindsey Inzana (Chesapeake/Grassfield) followed an out later with a two-run blast over the left field fence to cut the Captains' lead to 7-6.
Dost's double and Inzana's homer highlighted a six-hit offense for VWC. CNU connected for 13 hits, topped by Candice Zollars (Chesapeake/Western Branch), Sabrina Hill (Stafford/Mountain View), and Taylor Dillow (Springfield/South County) with two hits each.
Karagiorgis pitched the distance for VWC, but fell to 21-5. She struck out one, walked one, and gave up 13 hits and four earned runs.
Makayla Jenkins (Gloucester/Gloucester) improved to 8-1 on the rubber for CNU, working five inning inings. She struck out one, walked five, and allowed four hits and four earned runs. Krista Lewis (Chesapeake/Hickory) pitched the final two innings.