(Story courtesy of Texas Lutheran University athletics)
TYLER, Texas -- The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs will play for an NCAA Division III Softball National Championship after defeating Trine (Ind.) 6-3 Sunday afternoon in the semifinal round of the double-elimination championship tournament at SuddenLink Field.
TLU (38-8) will face the Emory (Ga.) Eagles in the best 2-of-3 series for the national championship.
Championship games on Monday are set for 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. central in Tyler. The "if necessary" game would be played at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Emory (39-12) defeated Eastern Connecticut State 3-2 in eight innings to advance to the championship final against TLU.
TLU Softball is the second Bulldog sport in as many years to advance to a national championship round. TLU Baseball finished as the national runner-up, to the University of Texas at Tyler, in the 2018 national championship finals in Appleton, Wis.
"It's exciting, just kind of rolling with it," said Casey Martin, TLU's freshman second baseman, who had two hits, an RBI, and two runs scored Sunday. "I really haven't had a second to soak it all in and realize what we are doing. It will probably soak in afterward."
Trine took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single in the second inning. The run was unearned against TLU freshman right-hander Chassety Raines due to a throwing error earlier in the inning.
The Bulldogs came back in the third with two runs. Martin singled to score Cassie Roche, and Madisyn Cates gave TLU its first lead with an RBI double down the right-field line.
Trine responded in the top of the fourth with a two-run blast to center field off the bat of Michaela Hartline.
But that would be all for The Thunder against TLU pitching. Raines pitched five complete innings, striking out seven and walking three. She allowed only two earned runs.
"First off, we took a chance starting Chas today," said Wade Wilson, TLU's head coach. "She hadn't pitched since our conference championship, and she got roughed up a little bit there. She had a great year, and didn't start pitching 'til mid-year."
"So we kind of took a chance with her and let our other pitchers get a little break. We felt like she could do it, but just with the time off we were a little worried, and she came out and did an outstanding job."
TLU bounced back from the 3-2 deficit in the fourth with an RBI double from Rebecca Snow that scored Martin. The rally continued in the fifth when Raines reached on an error that brought home Skylar Ouellette. Ouellette had doubled in the inning with a shot to left that nearly left the yard.
In the sixth, TLU added two more runs on a Snow single up the middle. Kelly Jurden and DeAnna Hernandez each scored.
TLU stole six bases on Sunday against Trine. Jurden pushed her NCAA DIII-leading and school/conference record steals mark up to 59 (in 61 attempts). Roche stole three bases, moving to a perfect 30-for-30.
For the year, TLU has 192 stolen bases in 210 attempts.
"Two things that stand out to me: we had some clutch hits today, and secondly I really thought our speed showed itself today," said Wilson. "I thought we were able to take advantage with some of that and get some stolen bases and get some runners moving around. I thought today's game was the first game (of the tournament) that I thought our speed was really a factor."
Bulldog ace Kayla Oliveira came on to pitch the sixth and seventh and allowed just one hit. She registered her second save.
Raines improved to 9-0 in the circle. She has a 1.16 ERA with an opponent batting average of .186.