Hull Pitches Virginia Wesleyan Back to National Championship Series

Hull Pitches Virginia Wesleyan Back to National Championship Series

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. --- Virginia Wesleyan University is one step closer to defending its 2017 national championship as the Marlins punched their ticket to the best-of-three national championship series with a 1-0 shutout of Ithaca College on day four of the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament championship round in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The Marlins, now 53-2 on the season, played spoilers to the Bombers (35-13) for the second time in three games as VWU southpaw Hanna Hull baffled IC hitters to the tune of one hit and 12 strikeouts. The Marlins All-American did issue four free passes, but her strikeout rate combined with a solid defense resulted in a third shutout in as many game's for the nation's top-ranked program.*

Hull, already the ODAC career leader in strikeouts with 725 thru Sunday afternoon, improved to 38-2 and lowered her earned run average to 0.96 with a third successive shutout at Integris Field at the USA Hall of Fame Complex.  The 38 victories further the conference record for wins in a season and sit two shy of tying the Division III record of 40 set by former Muskingum College (now university) standout Jennifer Segner in 2000. Hull's 38 wins bring her career total to 70, setting a new league record previously held by former Marlin standout Brittaney Brown with 69 wins from 2008-10.

Hull's numbers in Oklahoma City are eye-opening, even for a player that has earned two straight ODAC Pitcher of the Year honors and the 2017 NFCA Player and Rookie of the Year laurels in not quite two seasons at VWU. In 21.0 innings, she has allowed just four hits without a run to go with six walks and 37 punchouts.

RELATED: NCAA Interactive Bracket

Offense came at a premium for both Ithaca and Virginia Wesleyan on Sunday as the Marlins managed just four hits off Bombers starter Haley Congdon. The knocks that mattered came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Third baseman Julia Sinnett factored in the scoring for a second straight day as she led off the frame with a single thru the left side. Rightfielder Maria Weddle gave up her at bat with a sacrifice in a situation similar to VWU's last run yesterday, moving up Sinnett to second. Two batters later, shortstop Kiersten Richardson plated Sinnett with a single to left field for the game's lone run.

Hull, meanwhile, struck out two batters in every inning but the fifth and seventh frames -- she "only" had one in each of those instances. She got in a little trouble in the second inning after handing walks to Alex Wright and Nikkey Skuraton, but ended the two-on one-out scenario with a pair of punchouts. She had a few mid-range consecutive outs streaks throughout the game, including the Bombers' final six batters.

Congdon went the distance for IC, giving up that one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. She finishes the season with a 15-4 overall record.

The Marlins move on to face either Illinois Wesleyan University (38-11-1) or Luther College (42-10-0) in the best-of-three series beginning on Monday. Two games are slated to be played on that day, with a possible "if necessary" championship on tap for Tuesday. Monday's first game is set for 2:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to check for live video and statistics links.

As far as status of opponents, Illinois Wesleyan is in the driver's seat as the Titans have not yet lost in the double elimination format. The Norse, who were leading 5-1 in the seventh inning in game one against IWU at the time of this release, would need to defeat the Titans twice today (Sunday) to setup a rematch with VWU. The Marlins topped Luther, 3-0, on Saturday.

*Virginia Wesleyan is ranked #1 in the NFCA coaches poll (