SALEM, Va. – For the first time in school history, a Saint Anselm College team will play for a national championship after the Hawks blanked eighth-ranked Southern Arkansas, 3-0, in a do-or-die game to advance to the championship series of the 2018 NCAA Division II Softball Championship on Sunday at James I. Moyer Sports Complex.
After a day of rest, sophomore Morgan Perry held Southern Arkansas (60-11), one of the nation's top offenses boasting 113 home runs on the season, to eight hits in her ninth shutout of the year. The Saint Anselm (44-11-1) offense continued its timely hitting, recording all three of its hits in the game in a three-run third inning and Perry took care of the rest to send the Hawks to the national championship series. The Hawks and Lady Muleriders were meeting for the third time in four days in Salem having split the first two meetings.
RAW VIDEO: The @SaintAnselm softball team will play for an @NCAADII National Championship! The Hawks knocked off eighth-ranked Southern Arkansas on Sunday - they need only two more wins to claim their first-ever national title #HawksSoarHigher @NFCAorg @WMUR9 @NHULSports pic.twitter.com/5SbEhZHlry— Saint Anselm Hawks (@STAHawks) May 27, 2018
Saint Anselm will face the University of Southern Indiana in a best-of-three series for the national title. Weather permitting, the second-seeded Hawks and eighth-seeded Screaming Eagles will play twice on Monday, May 28. The first game will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be followed by game two roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one. Should a third game be necessary, that game is scheduled for Tuesday, May 29 at 11 a.m. Southern Indiana, which is vying for its first national title after making its first appearance in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship last season, rallied to defeat sixth-seeded Saint Leo, 5-4 in eight innings, to advance to the championship series. The Screaming Eagles trailed the Lions, 4-2, after five innings on Saturday before the game was halted due to rain before rallying for the extra-inning victory.
Despite the leadoff batter reaching base in all seven innings, Perry kept the power Lady Mulerider offense scoreless to pick up her 26th victory of the season against just four defeats. The sophomore had just two strikeouts in the game but struck out Brooke Goad, Division II's all-time home run leader, looking for the first out of the fifth to set a new single-season program record with her 180th punch out of the season. Since the start of regionals, Perry is 7-0 with a 0.92 ERA in seven starts spanning 53.0 innings.
The Saint Anselm offense dealt First Team All-American Victoria Taylor her first loss of the season (32-1), chasing the Southern Arkansas sophomore in the third inning with three runs. Taylor allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits and three walks with three strikeouts in two-plus innings of work. Brooke Ford-Nelson limited the Hawks to just one hit over the final five innings to keep her team in the game.
Saint Anselm got runners in scoring position in each of its first two innings at the plate but was unable to score. In the first, Maggie Murphy drew a one-out walk and stole second but was left there. In the second, Shannon Colson coaxed a leadoff walk, moved to second on a bunt and stole third, her single-season record 32nd of the season, with two outs only to be stranded 60 feet away.
The Hawks sent eight batters to the plate in the third as they scored three runs to stake Perry to a 3-0 lead. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Erin Thompson dropped an RBI single to left to end Taylor's day early. After a pitching change, Megan Murrell provided the second run with a sacrifice fly to right and Colson followed with an RBI single to the gap in left center for the third run of the inning.
The Lady Muleriders got the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the third in the form of cleanup hitter Jill Roye, but Perry got Roye to pop out to Jordan O'Connor at short. The only other time Southern Arkansas had two runners on base in the game was the bottom of the seventh.
Needing three runs to keep their season alive, the Lady Muleriders started the bottom of the seventh with a single to center by Sarah Pitre. With the slugging Goad on deck, Hallie Saintignan made a bid for a second consecutive single, but Amanda Bickford made a sliding catch in center to avoid Goad, and her Division II single-season record 32 home runs, coming to the plate as the tying run. Megan Godoyo hit a two-out single to put two on with two out before Perry got Faith Otts to hit a weak pop up to Lauren Washburn in foul ground at third to give the Hawks the chance to play for a national championship.