Springfield, Mo. – It took 14 innings, 354 combined pitches, 19 combined hits, and there were 21 total runners left on base, but somehow, the Marian Knights softball team found a way to take down IU Southeast in the NAIA Opening Round Monday afternoon, winning 2-1. The Knights picked up their 50th win of the season as Mary Crumlin brought home Shelbie Stotts on an RBI walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th, as Marian moves to 50-0 on the year.
The 2019 postseason began with a hard fought pitcher’s duel between Breena Smith and Emily Weiss of IU-Southeast, as both pitcher’s laid it on the line in the NAIA Opening Round. Both the Knights and Grenadiers went three-up, three-down in the first inning, with Smith coming back and throwing a perfect second inning. Issy Hoyt posted the game’s first hit with a single to right in the bottom of the second while Maddie Bombei walked with two outs to put a pair on base, but Weiss forced a groundout to end the second. Smith then worked around a one-out single in the third getting a strikeout and groundout to end the half inning.
Marian had plenty of scoring chances throughout the game, and the first big opportunity came in the bottom of the third when Lanie Horen got on with a bunt single that spun in front of the plate. On a sacrifcie attempt from Olivia Hoffman, the throw to get her out at first sailed into right field, allowing Horen to reach third while Hoffman touched second. After a groundout, Shelbie Stotts drew an intentional walk to load the bases, and Weiss felt comfortable with the pressure as she forced a groundout to third and flyout to center to strand three Knights and come out unscathed.
Both teams saw three batters come to the plate and walk back to the dugout in both the fourth and fifth innings, as Smith and Weiss stood tall in the circle. Smith had to work around a lead-off single in the sixth inning but came out unharmed getting an inning-ending strikeout to leave a Grenadier on third. In the bottom half of the sixth, Stotts provided a chance for the offense to break through as she singled from her lead-off spot, but was left standing on second as Marian picked up three straight outs.
Weiss finally got a moment of run support in the seventh inning as IU-Southeast broke the tie and scored the game’s first run. Indiana posted back to back singles out of their four and five-hole hitters to put a pair on base, and then advanced one bag closer on a groundout. Morgan Keefer then singled to left and provided an RBI as she scored Reecie Gilliam from third. Marian got bailed out as Kaitlyn Flowers tried to tack on a second run on Smith on the play, but the strong arm of Bombei caught her at the plate.
The pressure was added to Marian as they came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, trailing for the first time all day needing one run to stay alive in the game. Bombei collected herself after making the inning-ending throw in the top half of the inning, and ripped a single back to her position as the tying run reached base. The sophomore then stole second and slid safely into third on a sacrifice bunt attempt from Sidney Gerkin. A groundout to short was unable to score the tying run, but Bombei had her one shining moment as she raced to the plate on a passed ball, scoring the tying run and revitalizing the Knights’ dugout. With the game tied at 1-1, Marian was unable to add on despite a late Hoffman single and the game moved to extra innings.
Smith threw a perfect eighth and the Knights looked poised to win the game in the bottom of the eighth as Hoyt reached base on a walk with one out. Serena Glenn came on to run for her and found her way to third as Sadie Baugh belted a double into the right-center gap. Glenn would not make it past third despite Bombei walking to load the bases, as Weiss managed to get two outs in the infield to end the threat. The ninth inning then went without a run as Smith and Weiss allowed a single in their half inning. Smith survived a two-out single in the 10th, while Weiss was again able to survive a Marian threat in the bottom of the inning, as Mary Crumlin and Maddie Bombei singled with two outs, but could not come home as Gerkin popped out to end the inning.
As the game prolonged into the 11th inning, Smith made a team-decision and pulled herself from the game, bringing on Crossroads League First-Teamer Shelby Herron to the circle, while Stotts moved into the catcher’s spot. The new battery brought new life in the 11th, as Herron tossed a perfect inning. The Knights would then again load the bases in the bottom of the 11th with Hoffman ripping a one-out double to right-center while Stotts drew an intentional walk and Hoyt walked. Marian again came up short, leaving all three on as Baugh flew out to right to end the inning.
Herron continued her string of perfection tossing a 1-2-3 12th inning, while Weiss had another left in her arsenal retiring Marian with three quick outs. Herron’s perfect streak reached seven batters as she got the first out of the 13th, but lost her command as she threw a five-pitch walk to Ashtyn Sharp. The Knights then got a big heads-up play from Stotts, as the catcher threw back to first and picked off Sharp as Kassidi Cadle applied the tag to record the out. A flyout ended the top half of the 13th, but Marian could not ride the momentum of the pick-off as Weiss pitched a perfect home half. Herron was able to throw a perfect 14th inning as she tossed her fourth no-hit inning, bringing Marian to bat for the final time.
Marian’s 14th inning rally started off with a bunt single by Shelbie Stotts, as the Crossroads League POTY called her number and caught the defense off guard. A sacrifice bunt from Hoyt moved the CL NOTY to second, and Baugh was able to draw an intentional walk to put two on. After Lauren Landes took Baugh’s place at first, Mary Crumlin dug into the box. The first baseman smacked a single up the middle and scored the speedy catcher, as Stotts scored the game-winning run to seal Marian’s 2-1 win.
Marian left 18 runners on base in the win, but had 11 hits as a team and drew seven walks. Crumlin’s walk-off was one of her two hits on the day, while Bombei went 2-4 at the dish. Hoffman and Stotts each had two hits, while Cadle, Horen, Hoyt, and Baugh each had one hit. Hoyt, Stotts, and Bombei each drew two walks. Crumlin had Marian’s only RBI of the game, and posted 25 putouts at first, which is a single game record in the past 10 years. Smith did not factor into the decision, but threw 10 innings of eight-hit softball and allowed only one run. Smith threw 120 pitches and recorded four strikeouts. Herron picked up the win with four no-hit innings, picking up one strikeout while allowing one walk.
Marian will move on to face Baker University in the second round of the Springfield Bracket tomorrow at 10 AM CT. The game has been moved up one hour to try and beat the rain forcasted for Tuesday afternoon.