Howerin, Hull, Lindsay Power Marlins in NCAA Win Over Luther

Howerin, Hull, Lindsay Power Marlins in NCAA Win Over Luther

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. --- Hanna Hull fanned 13 batters on the way to her 37th victory while Cassetty Howerin and Jessica Lindsay both homered in Virginia Wesleyan University's 3-0 whitewashing of Luther College to advance in the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament championship series in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Marlins improve to 52-2 on the season, while the Norse fall to 41-10.

Virginia Wesleyan joins Illinois Wesleyan University (38-11-1) in the driver's seat for a spot in the best-of-three final series for the national trophy. The Marlins will meet Ithaca College (35-12) for the second (and possibly third) time on Sunday, while the Titans square off against Luther. Ithaca eliminated the University of Texas at Tyler (44-5) on Saturday, while Luther did the same to Case Western Reserve University (38-12). Both the Bombers and Norse would need to defeat Virginia Wesleyan and Illinois Wesleyan, respectively, twice on Sunday to earn a spot in the final series.

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The Marlins did not waste much time in putting their first run on the board against Luther. Howerin, VWU's All-American first baseman, belted her eighth homerun of the season via a solo shot to center with two down in the top of the first inning. The resulting RBI marked her 59th of the season, leaving her seven shy of the ODAC single-season record. She already owns the conference career standard, now with 218 runs driven in.

Hull surrendered her first hit of the championship in the bottom of the frame while also issuing a walk, but she recovered to strike out the side. Her battery partner, Lindsay, made the most of the effort with a solo blast to left field for a 2-0 lead thru the top of the second.

VWU generated one more insurance run in the fifth inning. Third baseman Julia Sinnett led off with a double to right-center. Rightfielder Maria Weddle put down a successful sacrifice to move Sinnett up a base. Centerfielder Beth Ford followed with a RBI grounder to second for what proved to be the game's final run.

Hull gave up three hits on the day, her first three of the championship after no-hitting Ithaca on Thursday. The All-American southpaw struck out at least one Luther batter in each inning on the way to a baker's dozen of punchouts. She had streaks of 10 and seven batters set down in a row to help her improve to 37-2 on the season. Each win she piles up improves upon her previous ODAC single-season record of 32 victories. She is three wins shy of tying the NCAA Division III record of 40 victories set by former Muskingum College (now university) hurler Jennifer Segner in 2000.

Norse starter Samantha Bratland was solid in going the distance. She gave up all three earned runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

First pitch in the first of two possible games for Virginia Wesleyan against Ithaca is set for 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. Should the Bombers win that contest, game two is slated for 6:30 p.m. ET.