INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time since 2019, the Marian softball team is headed to the NAIA World Series, as the Knights accomplished the improbable by winning three consecutive elimination games on the same day to win their NAIA Opening Round Bracket. Marian reached the championship game with a morning 5-0 win over Middle Georgia State, and followed with back to back title game wins over Columbia College by 1-0 and 8-1 scores.

Sydney Wilson kept the ball in her hand as Marian entered the final game of the Opening Round, and kept her strong pitching going as she threw a hitless first inning, working around a hit batter. Marian was retired in order in their first crack at the dish, and in the top of the second Columbia took advantage of small ball and an error, moving runners into scoring position. Suzy Shanks broke up Wilson’s scoreless streak as a single through the middle on an 0-2 pitch drove in the Cougars first run, but a strikeout to Abbi Pringer cut the damage at one run.

The Knights started to find success with lead-off hits in both the second and third innings, with Sierra Norman doubling in the second and Caroline Roop singling in the third, but on both occasions Marian came up empty with a double play ending the second and three strikeouts shutting down the third. Wilson got back into form in the third inning as she retired the side in order, and in the fourth gave up a pair of hits, but got strong efforts from her defense to eliminate a lead-off double in a rundown while Savannah Harweger and Hayley Greene made the next two outs.

In the bottom of the fourth Marian’s offense finally clicked, as a single from Abby Madere on the first pitch of the inning kicked off the rally. Sierra Norman reached on an error on a tapper that was hit to third with the first baseman Jazlin Gottman dropping the ball, allowing Madere to reach third. Greene followed the at bat with a single to left field that tied the game at 1-1. Grace Meyer dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Norman and Greene into scoring position, and Savannah Baker again played the hero, singling to left field to score two more runs.

Marian’s lead grew to 3-1 following Baker’s hit, and stayed that way entering the bottom of the fifth inning as Wilson shrugged off two hits in the fifth inning to retire the side. The game broke wide open in the bottom of the fifth inning, as the Knights’ offense put the final dents on the scoreboard. Savannah Harweger and Anna Pritchett put up back to back singles to start the inning, but Harweger would get thrown out on the next contact on Abby Madere’s fielder’s choice. The bats kept hot despite the groundout, as Norman delivered an RBI single to make it a 4-1 lead. Greene would groundout to record the second out, but on a pop-up hit by Meyer in the next plate appearance, the Cougars’ second baseman dropped the ball, allowing two runs to score. Baker and Lily Wendt would both walk to load the bases, and after a Columbia pitching change, Mackenzie Dalton hammered a two-RBI single to left field, driving the home team’s lead to seven runs.

The Knights were unable to complete the run-rule win as Harweger lined out to right field, and played on into the sixth and seventh, with Olivia Stunkel tagging out Wilson to pitch the final two innings of the game. Stunkel started out slow in her second relief appearance of the day by throwing a four-pitch walk, but got back in a groove by getting three outs around a single to end the sixth. In the seventh, the Crossroads League Pitcher of the Year closed the game quickly, getting a strikeout and two fly outs to retire the side and send Marian back to the NAIA World Series.

Marian’s offense exploded for 10 hits in their final home game of the season, with Norman breaking her slump with a 3-4 outing, hitting a pair of doubles. Dalton, Meyer, and Baker each had two RBI in the win, while Greene had a hit and an RBI.

Wilson finished her final home game in style, throwing five innings with six hits allowed, striking out three batters in her win. The senior allowed one unearned run, and faced 21 batters in her outing. The fifth-year senior earned the win in all three games Marian played on Wednesday, tossing over 200 pitches in her 17 total innings of work. In total, Wilson threw 20.2 innings in the Opening Round, allowing just one run.

Marian is now 49-7 overall, and will learn the NAIA World Series opponent and schedule later this week.