SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- The Denison softball team won three-consecutive elimination games to force a winner-take-all game seven against second-seeded DePauw on Sunday in the 2017 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament. The Big Red fought valiantly to force game seven, but it was the DePauw Tigers that took home the tournament championship following a 6-0 win.
Less than 24 hours removed from ending top-seeded Wittenberg's bid for a tournament title, Denison faced Wooster in the second elimination game of the tournament. The Big Red offense spotted starting pitcher Sarah Herold four runs before the junior stepped inside the circle. Mckinly Vazquez scored the game's first run on a ground out by Laura Bagan before a triple to right by Lindsey Clemson knocked in Ricki Asher and Ryan Lee. Clemson came round to touch the dish on an infield single by Charlotte Happel.
Denison put up a six-spot in the third on the strength of seven hits. Happel doubled in Clemson, who opened the frame with a double to center. Senior Kerry Hager followed with an RBI single to right, while Vazquez and Lauren Secaras also recorded run scoring base hits. Bagan plated Lee with a ground ball to second, while Clemson singled to right in her second plate appearance of the inning. Clemson's single scored Asher from third.
Marina Roski broke up the shutout bid with a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth. Clemson completed a perfect 4-for-4 game with an RBI single to left center that scored Bagan. Herold (11-6) went on to retire the side in order in the fifth to secure a rematch with DePauw. The junior southpaw surrendered just one run while scattering two hits and striking out six in five innings of work.
As a team, the Big Red pounded out 16 hits which included four extra-base hits. Clemson finished a home run shy of the cycle while driving in four runs and scoring two more. Hager was a perfect 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, while Vazquez, Secaras and Happel all finished with two hits. Happel and Bagan each drove in a pair, while Vazquez, Lee and Asher also scored two runs apiece.
The victory over the Scots set up a rematch from the opening game of the tournament between the second and third seeds. This time the ultimate prize was on the line, the 2017 NCAC Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
After four scoreless frames, it was the Big Red that grabbed the early advantage. With the bases full and two outs, Asher delivered a base hit to left that scored Hager. Lee and Herold came around to score when a ball hit by Secaras was misplayed by shortstop Jordyn Fera. Bagan kept things going with a single up the middle that plated Asher.
The four-run led held all the way until the bottom of the seventh inning. After a base on balls and back-to-back wild pitches, Abey Bass found herself on third base. Following a free pass to Mina Shaw, head coach Tiffany Ozbun called upon freshman Taryn Welch to relieve Secaras, who entered the circle in the sixth frame. Gabby Smart made it a one-run game after belting a three-run homer with no outs.
Welch rebounded to induce a pop up to Lee at short before surrendering a single to Liz Getz. Julia Bork followed with a sacrifice bunt that resulted in Getz going first to third. With the game-tying run now 60 feet away, the freshman faced junior Lauren Godden. Godden appeared to drive in the game-tying RBI, but an outstanding play by Vazquez to run down the fly ball forced a decisive game seven.
Six different player recorded a hit for DU with Happel registering the only extra-base hit. Senior Erin Laswell (10-4) picked up the win after tossing 5.2 shutout inning with two strikeouts. Welch earned the save after surrendering a run on two hits in the seventh.
Playing in five of the seven tournament games finally caught up with the Big Red as the Tigers pounded out 14 hits in the championship game. Kat Panos, Godden and Fera each knocked in a run, while Smart drove in the game's final three runs.
Colleen Hoffman (3-2) took the loss after allowing just one run on four hits in the first two innings of the game. Bagan recorded two of the team's six hits in game seven, while Lee, Asher, Secaras and Happel registered Denison's other four singles.
The Big Red's season comes to an end with a 29-16 record. In the tournament awards ceremony Denison's Charlotte Happel, Erin Laswell, Kerry Hager and Lindsey Clemson were named to the All-Tournament team.