SALEM, Va. --- Virginia Wesleyan College secured its second straight and 10th overall ODAC Softball Tournament championship on Sunday afternoon, defeating Emory & Henry College, 2-0, in the second of two title games in the event's double elimination format. It was the first time the "if necessary" game was needed to determine a league champion since 2007.
Homeruns accounted for all six runs scored in the contests at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex in Salem on Sunday. Aside from those four hits, the two-game set proved to be more of a pitcher's duel.
In the first game, Blake Henderson sent a solo shot over the left field fence to lead-off the second inning and give VWC a 1-0 advantage. That score would persist until the seventh inning as E&H hurlers Emily Kendrick and Tiffany Cole kept the Marlins at bay and VWC lefty Hanna Hull was well on her way to a NCAA Division III-leading 25th victory.
But Caley Hodge swept away those plans with one swing of the bat as she belted a three-run blast over the six-foot fence in centerfield to propel the Wasps to a 3-1 victory. The homer for Hodge was her third of the tournament and gave her 10 RBI over E&H's seven-game run in Salem.
RELATED: Game 1 Box | Game 2 Box | Tournament Bracket
For game two, VWC head coach Brandon Elliott made the decision to start Courtney Wright in the circle in place of Hull, who had tossed three shutouts earlier in the tournament. Wright answered the call, hurling six shutout innings of five-hit ball to move to 15-0 on the season. Hull, who earned tournament Most Outstanding Player honors, closed the door on a 2-0 Marlins win for her third save of the season.
At the plate, Virginia Wesleyan got a big boost from standout first baseman Cassetty Howerin as she turned around a Kendrick fastball and deposited it over the fence in centerfield for a 1-0 lead after one inning.
The smallest of margins again maintained throughout much of the contest with Wright keeping E&H hitters off-balance and Kendrick and Cole again stifling the nation's top-ranked team.
The Wasps had a golden opportunity to blow the game open in the fifth inning. Ragan Halsey led off the top of the frame with a single. Pinch runner Amanda Whitlow was joined on-base by Jordan Chrisley, who benefitted from some miscommunication by Wright and Howerin on bunt coverage and reached via an infield single. Both runners then moved up on a passed ball. Leah Elswick followed with a ground out to third with Kaylah Duplain forcing both runners to stay put, but Erin Anderson took one for the team and trotted to first after being hit by a Wright pitch.
That set the stage for Hodge with sacks full of Wasps and just one down. Wright, who had thrown just one inning in the tournament entering the second title contest, induced a grounder to second which Liz Bailey and Kiersten Richardson turned into a 4-6-3 inning ending double play.
Virginia Wesleyan tacked onto the change in momentum in the bottom of the frame. With one down, Duplain took many of the patrons by surprise as she turned on a pitch and parked one over the left field fence to put the Marlins on top by their eventual winning-margin, 2-0.
RELATED: NCAA Regional Rankings
Both Virginia Wesleyan and Emory & Henry entered the tournament ranked in the Atlantic South Region by the NCAA Division III Softball Committee. The pair were also joined by Lynchburg College and Randolph-Macon College in the April 26 release.
The Marlins, who tied an ODAC record with their 43rd win of the season, receive the conference's at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. They were in no danger of missing out on the 62-team field as they were slotted #1 in the region.
The remainder of the regional rankings will be something to pay attention to over the next week. Selections for the national field aren't until May 7, with an online selection show on www.ncaa.com slated for 1:00 p.m. ET on Monday, May 8.
R-MC entered the weekend #4 in the region, with Lynchburg seventh and E&H eighth. In addition to the games during the ODAC Tournament, E&H and LC split their regular season series on Tuesday. The results for that were not included in those rankings, but will be in next week's edition of the rankings. The same is true of R-MC's sweep of Bridgewater College on Wednesday.
Erin Anderson, Emory & Henry
Ragan Halsey, Emory & Henry
Caley Hodge, Emory & Henry
Emily Kendrick, Emory & Henry
Makayla Carver, Guilford
Savannah Wood, Randolph-Macon
Kaylah Duplain, Virginia Wesleyan
Blake Henderson, Virginia Wesleyan
Hanna Hull, Virginia Wesleyan (MOP)
Cassetty Howerin, Virginia Wesleyan
Kiersten Richardson, Virginia Wesleyan