Roanoke Tops Tufts in NCAA Opener
Warlitner's Double Scores Lone Run, Higbie Stifles Jumbos' Offense
SALEM, Va. --- In an ultimate pitchers duel, Roanoke College defeated Tufts University, 1-0, in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA DIII Softball Championships. This win is the Maroons' first in NCAA Championship play since 2000 when they defeated Alma College, 4-0, in the opening game.
The Maroons (34-9) advance to play Montclair State University, who also won in a 1-0 decision against SUNY-Plattsburgh. That contest is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch on Saturday. Tufts (40-6) will play Plattsburgh State at 1:30 p.m. in an elimination contest.
This game was Roanoke's first appearance in the NCAA Championship round since 2001. They fell in two consecutive games that year. This game also marked the first time the Maroons and the Jumbos had squared off against each other.
In the early innings, the defensive battle started to take shape. The Maroons were able to get Leona Rainey and Stephanie Clarkon base in the first and second innings, respectively. However, in both instances, Tufts' pitcher Allyson Fournier kept the remainder of the order at bay. The Maroons quickly turned a double play in the bottom of the second to keep a Tufts' runner out of scoring position. Fournier struck out the side in the top of the third.
Roanoke was on the ropes in the bottom of the third, allowing runners on second and third base. With two outs, Clark made a diving catch over second base that ended the inning and kept two Jumbos' runners from scoring.
The game continued to be a pitchers duel through the fifth inning. Roanoke's Kelly Higbie had given up only one hit, while Fournier had struck out 10 batters after five.
In the top of the sixth, Rhea Schleicher opened the inning with a lead-off double. With two outs, Hollee Warlitner hit an RBI double to deep center, drawing the first lead for the Maroons, 1-0. The run marked the first earned run Fournier had given up in the post-season, including both conference and regional tournaments.
The Maroons responded on the defensive end by retiring the side in the bottom of the sixth inning. Tufts' returned the favor by keeping Roanoke off the base paths in the top of the seventh. In the final half-inning, the Jumbos' lead off hitter reached base on an error. With one out, Kris Parr grounded out, but advanced the runner to second base. Higbie proceded to strike out the final batter of the contest to give Roanoke the 1-0 victory.
Higbie pitched a one-hitter in her 34th complete game of the season. She faced 25 batters and struck out three. The Roanoke fielders helped tremendously in the one-hitter as they kept Tufts from getting a single ball out of the infield.
Schleicher, Clark, Bier and Warlitner each finished with one hit. Schleicher scored the lone run for Roanoke, while Warlitner's double tallied the team's only RBI.
The Jumbos' First-Team All-American, Fournier, struck out 14 of the 25 batters she faced. She gave up one run off four hits during the contest. Sara Hedtler got Tufts' only hit of the evening.
For more information on the NCAA Division III Softball Championship, click here.
--- This release is courtesy of the Roanoke College sports information department. ---