GRANVILLE, OHIO — Freshman outfielder Sarah Loyer (Barrie, Ontario/St. Joseph’s) hit a double that allowed what turned out to be the game-winning run to score in the top of the seventh inning in the deciding game of the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament as the third-seeded Hiram College softball team defeated top-seeded Denison University, 3-2, today (Saturday, May 7) in Granville. The Terriers dropped the first game of the day to the Big Red, 6-3, forcing a deciding game and would prevail to claim their second NCAC Tournament title. [Game One Stats] [Game Two Stats]
Following today’s games, the Terriers improve to 25-12 overall and will receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament. It is the Terriers first appearance since the 2009 season, when Hiram made its first-ever trip to the NCAC postseason. The Big Red will have to wait and see for a possible at-large birth to the national tournament with a 30-9 overall mark.
“We had some players really step up for us this weekend and made some big time plays,” said Head Coach Kristin Tassey. “We have had a great season so far and all of the players have worked really hard. Winning the tournament is a great accomplishment for them and the program and we are looking forward to continuing the season at the NCAA Tournament.”
Needing only one win to claim the tournament title and after dropping the first matchup against Denison earlier in the day, the Big Red took the first lead of game two with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning for a 2-0 advantage. But Hiram responded with two runs of its own in the top of the second thanks to a pair of RBI walks with bases loaded to tie the game at 2-2. The game remained deadlocked as both teams could not get anything going until the top of the seventh inning when Hiram junior All-NCAC outfielder Marlene Smith (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) would reach base via walk with one out. Following a sacrifice bunt by junior outfielder Kristen Cooney (North Lewisburg/Triad) to advance Smith to second base, Loyer connected on what turned out to be the game-winning RBI double allowing Smith to score and put the Terriers up 3-2. Freshman pitcher Alyssa Lane (Randolph/Waterloo) then closed the door getting the first three Denison hitters in the bottom half of the inning to record outs, including two strikeouts, sealing a 3-2 victory for Hiram and the NCAC Tournament Championship.
Hiram recorded just four hits in the game with two players each recording a pair of hits. Loyer finished the game two-of-three with two RBI. Fellow freshman Jessica Bolanz (Randolph/Waterloo) also posted two hits and went two-of-three with a run scored.
Lane pitched all seven innings and claimed her 13th win of the season and is now 13-7 overall. She allowed just two runs on three hits and struck out four batters.
“We’ve had a pretty balanced contribution of big plays from both our young players as well as our upper classmen.” said Tassey. “Alyssa [Lane] has been great for us on the mound this year as a freshman, and our entire lineup has been producing at the plate. It’s an exciting time and I think we are more than capable of surprising a few people at the NCAA Tournament.”
In the first game, Denison took an early lead scoring three runs in the top of the third inning for a 3-0 margin. The Big Red added to their lead in the fifth with a run to increase the score to 4-0. Hiram cut the deficit in half with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI groundout by Loyer and a RBI double by sophomore All-Region first baseman Alee Singer (Akron/Revere) to make the score 4-2. But Denison padded its lead with three runs in the top of the sixth to make it 6-2. Hiram crossed home plate one more time in the bottom of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Singer with two outs. But the rally ended there as the Terriers recorded a strikeout in the next at bat, giving the Big Red a 6-3 victory and forced a deciding final game to decide the championship.
Hiram tallied 10 hits in the game and was led by three players who recorded a pair of hits. Smith finished two-of-three with a run scored. Loyer and junior All-Region utility player Kelly Langland (Batavia/McNicholas) both posted two-of-four efforts with Loyer adding a run scored and a RBI and Langland tallied a run scored.
On the mound, Lane started the game, but only went one inning allowing three runs on two hits in addition to striking out one batter, and was given the loss. Sophomore Ashley Hinkle (Parma) pitched the final six innings giving up three runs on seven hits and struck out three batters.
Following the tournament, Singer was named the tournament most valuable player and to the All-Tournament Team. Joining her was Lane, Langland and Loyer.
Hiram will await to find out who its first opponent will be in the NCAA Division III Tournament which begins Thursday, May 12.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact Hiram College Sports Information Director Jeff Hoedt by phone at (330) 569-5495 or by email at email@example.com.