Softball Edges Illinois Wesleyan, 2-0, In NCAA Championship Opener

Softball Edges Illinois Wesleyan, 2-0, In NCAA Championship Opener



- The MIT softball team used single runs in the sixth and the seventh innings to push by No. 18 Illinois-Wesleyan, 2-0, in game three of the 2016 NCAA Division III Softball Championship at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex. Today marked the first time in program history in which MIT won a game at the national championship site. 

MIT (34-12) moves on in the winners bracket and will play the victor of No. 11 Messiah College /No. 15 Rowan University tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m., while Illinois-Wesleyan (35-12) plays the loser of the same game in an elimination contest beginning at 1:30 p.m.

In the bottom of the first inning, Illinois-Wesleyan had the game's first scoring chance. After senior Mary Rankin (Emden, Ill.) led off the frame with a single up the middle. Classmate Danielle Smith (Marquette Heights, Ill.) followed with a wall-ball double to left, but the MIT relay from junior Natalie Shifflet (Poway, Calif.), sophomore shortstop Amanda Lee (Saratoga, Calif.) and junior catcher Ali Trueworthy (Rochester, N.H.) cut Rankin, who was trying to score from first, down at the plate to keep the game scoreless.

After just one inning of play, there was a 41-minute lightning delay which gave the Engineers a chance to settle down and play their game the rest of the way.

The Engineers, who were the visiting team in this game, had runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings, but excellent defense by the Titans kept MIT off the board. In the third, junior Monica Shifflet (Poway, Calif.) reached on a fielding error and N. Shifflet walked putting runners on first and second with no one out, but Titans junior Katie Caulfied (Chicago, Ill.) turned a double play on a line out and then registered the frame's third out with a leaping catch at the hot corner.

MIT senior pitcher Alexandra Marshall (Glen Head, N.Y.) was fantastic in the circle as she worked out of a bases loaded jam with two strikeouts and a pop out in the fourth and had runners on second and third and got the next three hitters out to end the fifth with the game still scoreless.
Lee began the top of the sixth with a double to deep left center.

After classmate Zoe Hinton (Aurora, Colo.) worked a walk, Trueworthy drove a single up the middle, plating Lee for the game's first run of the contest. Lee, who scored from second, avoided the tag from the catcher after a rocketed throw in the air into the plate by Rankin in center nearly retired Lee at home. The great slide by Lee pushed the Engineers ahead 1-0 late in the game.

MIT added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when M. Shifflet began the frame with a bloop single down the line in left. After sister N. Shifflet moved her over to second on a sacrifice bunt, sophomore Jasmin Joseph (Woodland Hills, Calif.) dropped down a bunt of her own. A throwing error by the catcher allowed M. Shifflet to score the Engineers' second run and Joseph to advance to third when the outfielder over ran the ball in right.

Marshall returned to the circle and retired the Titans in order, claiming the 2-0 shutout victory for MIT. The senior improved to 26-10 this season with her complete game effort scattering seven hits and punching out six Titans. Illinois-Wesleyan senior pitcher Jenna Noland (Chillicothe, Ill.) shouldered the loss (14-5) yielding two runs (one earned), seven hits, three walks and three strikeouts.