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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — After falling behind 2-0, the Ferrum College softball team scratched across three runs in the fourth and tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh to open the NCAA Tournament with a 5-2 upset of No. 17 and third-seeded Salisbury University, snapping its 25-game win streak in the process.
The Sea Gulls plated the first run in the bottom of the first. Michelle Gravdahl reached base via an error and was brought in on the next at-bat by Erika Brittingham's double to left center. After Ferrum went three up, three down in the top of the second, SU tacked on another run in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Lindsay McCabe drilled a single through the right side and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Carly Read. On the next at-bat, Harley Hill delivered a two-out single past the out-stretched hands of Hannah Shumaker to bring home McCabe.
The Black and Gold trailed until the top of the fifth. Suzanne Plasters led off the inning with a seven-pitch at-bat. Plasters finally pounced on the last pitch and hoisted it out to left fielder Lindsay Brown, who dropped the fly ball. After Alicia Eichenlaub fouled out, Rachel Shumaker drew a walk to advance Plasters to second. Shelbie Hall flied out to left field, but H. Shumaker stepped in behind her and slapped a single to right field to score Plasters and advance her sister, the tying run, to third.
Still with two outs, Chloe Brzycki took a 1-0 pitch and lifted it toward the shortstop Read who couldn't snag the backhand grab, which allowed the Shumaker sisters to come around and score to put the Panthers ahead, 3-2. With Brzycki on first, Karly Thompson ripped a single past Casey Zaino to put runners on first and second with two outs for Brittany Barlow. Barlow delivered a single to left field on the seventh pitch of the at-bat to advance the runners, but Brzycki was thrown out at home to end the scoring onslaught.
Both teams were locked in a pitcher's duel from that point until the top of the seventh when the Panthers' R. Shumaker led off with a single to left center, prompting a pitching change in the circle. Hall bunted R. Shumaker over to second on the next at-bat. With one out, H. Shumaker, the USA South Tournament MVP, delivered her fourth triple of the season to bring her sister home for a 4-2 advantage. H. Shumaker scored on a passed ball on the first pitch to Brzycki to provide the final margin as R. Shumaker retired the side in the bottom of the seventh.
H. Shumaker led Ferrum (36-12) at the dish with two hits and two RBI, including the huge triple in the seventh. R. Shumaker, Hall, Thompson and Barlow were each credited with a hit.
Kaitlyn Culler got the start in the circle for the Panthers, going three innings and allowing one earned run off of four hits. R. Shumaker (11-2) pitched the remaining four innings to get the win, not allowing a hit.
Brittingham went 2-3 and a RBI to lead the Sea Gulls (35-6). Hill and McCabe also rattled off a hit in the losing effort. Brittingham suffered the loss on the mound for Salisbury, allowing one earned run off of five hits, to go along with four strikeouts. She entered the game with a 0.84 ERA, ranked fourth nationally, as well as 187 K's, which was eighth-best in the nation. SU's pitching staff was the top-ranked team in team ERA at 1.04, but the Panthers' staff (ranked sixth in the nation in team ERA) proved to be the real aces in the deck.
Ferrum advances in the winner's bracket to face a familiar foe in No. 10 and two-seeded Christopher Newport University. CNU breezed by Farmingdale State College, 12-4, in the last game of the opening day. The USA South rivals will square off at 4 p.m. tomorrow evening for the fifth time this season. The season series is deadlocked, 2-2, after the Panthers swept the Captains on Championship Sunday for the program's third conference tournament crown.
The Sea Gulls drop to the loser's bracket and will face the Rams, who only lasted five-innings with regional-host CNU, at noon tomorrow.