Mount Berry, Ga. – For the first time in program history, the Transylvania softball team advanced to the championship round of an NCAA Tournament regional by defeating the Berry College Vikings 6-0 Saturday morning at Kay Williams Field.
Playing in the Saturday winner's bracket game against the No. 2 ranked team in the country and this weekend's NCAA regional host, the Pioneers unloaded their bats against Berry to the tune of six runs off of nine hits to move to 2-0 in the Mount Berry regional.
With the win, the Pioneers advance to Sunday's championship round of the double-elimination regional with two chances to advance into next weekend's super regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
Transylvania will play the winner of the last remaining team from the loser's bracket in tomorrow's championship game at 12:00 p.m. Emory & Henry, Thomas More, and Berry will play later Saturday in a pair of elimination games for the right to play Transylvania on Sunday afternoon.
The Pioneers have now stayed in the winner's bracket for the last five games dating back to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, when they went 3-0 on the way to capturing the conference tournament crown. Transylvania is on a nine-game win streak with Saturday's win, its longest of the 2017 season.
Transylvania made its move into the championship with another solid day from junior pitcher Renae Morton in the circle, and clutch moments from a collection of sophomores and senior infielder Shelby Bailey.
Morton won her 10th consecutive game in her 10th consecutive start on Saturday, all complete-game wins. The junior rang up four batters, walked five, and allowed four hits in picking up her fifth shutout of the season.
The Pioneers entered the day coming off of a tournament-opening 4-1 win against Emory & Henry taking on Berry, 3-0 winners of their day one game against Thomas More on Friday.
Drama unfolded soon after the first pitch when the potent Vikings threatened to score in the bottom of the first inning; three of Morton's five walks on the day allowed Berry to load the bases. But the Transy junior fanned two hitters through the Vikings battery to escape the inning with all three runners stranded and a scoreless game.
The scoreboard remained blank through the first two innings as Morton and her peer, Marie Collop had success against their respective slew of hitters. Collop quickly retired the first two Pioneer batters she saw in the third inning before Transylvania seized control of the game in similar fashion to Friday's contest against Emory & Henry.
With two down, sophomore infielder Brittany Mumford shot a double into left field, and sophomore outfielder Shelby Gambrell kept the drive alive with a single that squeezed through the middle to place two aboard. The Pioneers' next batter Bailey delivered a hard-hit double towards the left field wall that scored Mumford and Gambrell to give Transylvania a 2-0 lead.
Transylvania tacked on one more run in the top of the third when freshman designated player Sydney Motell hit a single towards the Berry shortstop. A subsequent error from Berry's shortstop allowed Bailey to score for a 3-0 Pioneer lead.
With a 3-0 cushion, Transylvania held Berry at bay, allowing just one walk in the third inning. In the fourth inning the Pioneers took advantage of an inning-ending baserunning error with two runners on for the Vikings to extinguish their scoring efforts. The Pioneers robbed Berry of another prime opportunity later in the sixth inning when sophomore outfielder Shelbi Poehlein made an incredible over-the-shoulder catch that prevented an extra-base hit from Berry with a runner in scoring position.
The Pioneers accelerated to victory in the top of the sixth inning when sophomore first baseman Jessica Powell blasted her third home run of the season into left field for a 5-0 Transylvania lead. Transylvania tacked one more run on for size the following inning on an infield RBI single from Poehlein that scored Bailey for the Pioneers' final run of the day.
Morton achieved her 19th win of the season to move to 19-7, while the Pioneers grew their record to 33-11. The Berry loss was just their third of the season, ending a 13-game winning streak.
Mumford went 2-for-4 on the day for Transylvania, as did Bailey, who added two RBIs with her go-ahead double. The Pioneers enjoyed four extra-base hits on the day as they now aspire for their first NCAA regional victory in program history.
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