Cortland softball falls to Rowan in NCAA regional tournament

CORTLAND, N.Y. – The Cortland softball team forced Rowan to a final game at the NCAA Div. III Regional in Cortland with a come-from-behind 13-12 win over the 15th-ranked Profs, but Rowan bounced back to defeat the Red Dragons, 7-3, in the winner-take-all championship game.

Rowan (38-9) will face Ithaca in a best-of-three super regional next weekend, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Div. III World Series. Cortland finished the season with a 38-11 record and tied for 17th nationally. The Red Dragons were making their 21st NCAA tournament appearance and 10th in the last 11 years.

Four Red Dragons – Erin Wolstenholme (Oneonta), Mikayla Shade (Bethlehem), Jamie Bucci (Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow) and Kaleigh Churchill (Camillus/West Genesee) – were named to the regional all-tournament team, along with Rowan's Damariz Mercado, Morgan Smith, Mia Baldassari, Beth Ann Hyland, and Ashley DeYoung, and Castleton's Brittany Brayman. Mercado was the regional's Most Outstanding Player.

Kaleigh Churchill homered during Cortland's five-run seventh-inning rally in Game 1 and finished the contest 3-for-4 with three RBI and three runs (Photo by Darl Zehr Photography)

Kaleigh Churchill homered during Cortland's five-run seventh-inning rally in Game 1 and finished the contest 3-for-4 with three RBI and three runs (Photo by Darl Zehr Photography)

Cortland 13, Rowan 12

Cortland trailed 12-8 entering the top of the seventh and was three outs from elimination before rallying to take the lead. Wolstenholme led off with an infield single and Churchill hit a two-run homer to left. Shade singled, and Andrea Schoonmaker (Marlboro) hit a double down the left field line to drive in pinch runner Shannon Damon (Staten Island/St. Joseph by the Sea) from first.

After Niki Barbato (East Meadow/Holy Trinity) walked, Jamie Corradina (Dobbs Ferry) put down a sac bunt. Corradina was safe when the throw to first was dropped, and Schoonmaker scored on the play to tie the game. Barbato moved to third on the play, and Rosie Phillips (Geneva/Our Lady of Mercy) hit a sac fly to right to drive in the go-ahead run.

Sam Van Dorn (Medford/Patchogue-Medford) entered as Cortland's second reliever in the bottom of the fifth and got a groundout to strand runners on second and third. She walked one batter in the sixth, and she allowed a leadoff single by Shilah Snead in the seventh. Snead stole second, but later was thrown out by Corradina trying to steal third. A strikeout and a groundout ended the game.

Cortland got on the board quickly with two runs in the top of the first (Cortland was the "away" team since Rowan entered the championship round with a 2-0 record). Bucci walked and stole her school single-season record 24th base. Wolstenholme walked with one out, Churchill hit an RBI double down the right field line, and Shade hit an RBI single to right center.

Rowan, however, exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the first. DeYoung hit a towering three-run home run that just stayed fair down the left field line, and later in the inning Mercado hit a grand slam as Rowan recorded five hits and a walk in its first seven plate appearances. The Profs extended their lead to 8-2 in the second on a Carly Anderson RBI single.

Cortland got back in the game with four runs in the third on a Shade two-run single, a Schoonmaker RBI bunt single, and a Barbato RBI fielder's choice. The Red Dragons pulled within 8-7 in the fourth on an error, a Bucci sac bunt, a wild pitch, and a Diane Cork (Wayland/Wayland-Cohocton) RBI groundout.

Rowan put a run up in the fourth on an error when a throw from the outfield after a lineout got away to allow a runner to score from third. Barbato's sac fly in the fifth drove in a run for Cortland and the Red Dragons trailed 9-8.

The Profs scored three unearned runs in the fifth with the help of an error, a passed ball, a Gianna Genello RBI fielder's choice, a Snead RBI groundout, and a DeYoung RBI single. Cortland was retired in order in the sixth by Hyland, who entered as Rowan's second reliever of the game in the third.

Shade finished 4-for-4 with three RBI and was the only Cortland player this season to record four hits in a game. Churchill went 3-for-4 with a homer, double, three RBI and three runs scored, Schoonmaker was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, and Barbato drove in two runs. For Rowan, Mercado ended 3-for-4 with a homer, four RBI and two runs, DeYoung went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBI, and Smith was 2-for-2 with two walks and two runs. Baldassari and Anderson also finished with two hits each.

Van Dorn earned the win with her two and a third scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Hyland, the winning pitcher for Rowan on both Friday and Saturday, took the loss after blowing what would have been a four-plus inning save.

Rowan 7, Cortland 3

Cortland rode the momentum early on from its wild win in the first game and took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first in the championship game. Rowan starter Allison Nolan walked three of the first five batters she faced, the last a free pass to Shade with the bases loaded. Schoonmaker drove in the other run when she reached on an error with one out and the bases still loaded.

Rowan quickly tied the game with two runs in the top of the second on a bases-loaded error and a Genello RBI fielder's choice. The Profs took the lead for good with three runs in the third. The first run scored on a wild pitch. The second came in when, with runners on first and third, Mercado stole second, and a wild throw during the play allowed Rosalie Hood to score from third. Anderson's RBI groundout plated the third run. Anderson's two-run double in the fifth extended the lead to 7-2.

Cortland mounted one final rally in the bottom of the seventh. Wolstenholme doubled with one out and, with two outs, Shade singled up the middle to score pinch runner Alissa De Padua (Milford, PA/Delaware Valley) from third. Schoonmaker walked to keep the inning alive, but Rowan pitcher MacKenzie Juodaitis struck out the next batter to end the game.

Juodaitis relieved Nolan in the first inning and earned the win after scattering seven hits, walking only oneo and allowing just one run in six and a third innings. Van Dorn started for Cortland and suffered the loss to finish the season 8-2. She gave up two hits, four walks and four runs, two earned, in two and a third innings. Jamie Lachall (Philadelphia, PA/Sun Valley) pitched the next two innings and gave up one hit, three walks and three runs, two earned. Alexandrea Flint (Dalton/Keshequa) did not allow any runs over the final two and two thirds with a walk and two strikeouts.

Rowan finished with only six hits but drew eight walks. Anderson was 1-for-4 with three RBI and Mercado reached base three times with a hit and two walks, and she scored twice. Shade finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBI and was a combined 6-for-7 with a walk and five RBI in the two games.