HOLLAND, Mich. - Calvin advanced to the regional finals of the NCAA III softball tournament with a thrilling 5-2 victory over rival Hope Saturday morning at Wolters Stadium.
Calvin (32-8) held off a late Hope rally and added two key insurance runs to win the game.
The Knights will play in the NCAA III Regional Final Monday afternoon in a rematch against Hope at noon at Hope's Wolter Stadium. Hope advanced out of the loser's bracket Saturday by defeating Franklin 6-1 in an elimination game Saturday afternoon. Hope will need to beat Calvin twice to win the regional crown on Monday.
In Saturday's victory over Hope, Calvin held a 3-0 lead in the sixth but the Flying Dutch (31-10) rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth and had the bases loaded with one out. Freshman Ellie Borst (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) came on in relief to extinguish the Hope threat. Borst got the second out of the inning on a foulout to first snagged by junior Abby Colon (Caledonia, Mich./South Christian HS). She then got out of the inning with a groundout to third, stranding three Hope runners.
In the top of the seventh, junior Maddie DeGroot (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) collected an RBI single that brought home junior Kristen Newman (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea HS). Senior Jessica Brasser (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) followed with an RBI double to left to give Calvin a three-run cushion.
Borst struck out the first two hitters she faced in the bottom of the seventh but Hope stayed alive with a single by senior Haley Reitsma. Calvin closed out the game with a diving catch in foul territory by rightfielder Bri Noorman (Jenison, Mich./Covenant Christian HS).
Calvin scored its first two runs of the game back in the fourth inning as senior Kaley Frank (Edwardsburg, Mich./Edwardsburg HS) drove in one run with a single while Colon came home on a Hope throwing error. Calvin added another run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by DeGroot that brought home Newman from third.
Brasser went 3-for-4 at the plate for the Knights. Newman went 2-for-3. DeGroot went 1-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs.
Junior Anna Gernant (West Des Moines, Ia./Valley HS) picked up the win, striking out 12 Hope batters in 5.1 innings of work. Borst picked up the save, tossing the final 1.2 innings.
Calvin has now faced Hope five times this year and has posted a 4-1 record against the Flying Dutch including a 3-0 record at Wolters Stadium.
"I'm really excited for our players. They played great," said Calvin head softball coach Becky Hilgert. "Playing Hope for the fifth time this season, our focus was to view Hope as another team over there and not to get too wrapped up in the rivalry and I thought we did. Anna pitched a stellar five (innings) and then got into a little bit of trouble in the sixth but we've got a great pitching staff. Ellie stepped up, got the hitters off balance, accepted that role and did a great job in relief. Our hitters were aggressive and hungry. They competed all seven innings and that's all I can ask for."
DeGroot now has 58 hits on the season which ranks third on the Calvin single-season list. Brasser has 57 hits on the year which ranks fourth on the Calvin single-single charts.
In addition, DeGroot boosted her career hits total to 156 which matches Melanie Harriff for third place on the Calvin career list. Brasser boosted her career hits total to 151 which matches Lina Avila for fifth place on the Calvin career list.
Gernant (14-5) boosted her season strikeout total to 183 which ranks fifth on the Calvin single-season list. She also bumped up her career strikeout number to 575 which ranks second on the all-time Calvin list.