Grace’s softball team scored a major upset in the Crossroads League Tournament on Wednesday, knocking out No. 25 Marian in nine innings.
The Lady Lancers were facing elimination against the Knights (40-12) after suffering an extra-innings defeat in the first round to Huntington. But freshman Brittany Turner provided the game-winning swing, doubling with two outs in the ninth to eliminate Marian from the tournament by the score of 4-3.
The win secures Grace’s first conference tournament victory in 12 years – a streak dating back to 2003. Grace will continue the double-elimination tournament in the losers’ bracket, starting with a 12 p.m. game on Thursday against St. Francis.
Huntington did not waste time scoring in the opening game, notching an RBI double in the top of the first inning. The Foresters notched three more runs in the third and led 4-0.
The Lady Lancers (27-24), on the other hand, were handcuffed offensively. The Foresters’ pitching held Grace without a hit for the first two innings, but Grace broke onto the scoreboard in the third inning. A ground ball from Clarissa Knight plated Brooke Shell from third base. Chandler Elliott then belted a two-run home run to right field to cut Huntington’s lead to 4-3.
Huntington responded with a three-run homer in the fourth, but Grace countered in the fifth. Samantha Johnson scored on a ground ball, and Knight snuck home from third on a wild pitch to cut Huntington’s lead in half. Hannah Herbster took care of the rest, connecting on a two-out, two-run home run to left field to tie the game at 7-7.
The game remained deadlocked at 7 apiece through regulation and into the ninth inning. The Foresters pulled ahead 8-7 with a run on a sac fly in the top of the ninth, and Grace was unable to respond. The Lady Lancers were hitless over the last three innings.
Elliott drove in three runs in the game, and Ashley Kleinbub walked twice and scored once. No batter for Grace could muster two hits as Huntington outhit Grace 14-6 in the game. Allison Franklin threw four strong innings of relief, giving up one run on four hits.
The opening-round loss sent Grace into the losers’ bracket where Grace faced the host school No. 25 Marian. Grace did not back down from the CL regular season champs, jumping ahead 2-0 thanks to RBIs from Elliott and Shell.
Marian countered with a two-run home run in the fourth to tie the game and inched ahead 3-2 in the sixth with another home run. But Grace continued the trend with a home run of its own by Ashley Kleinbub in the bottom of the sixth to knot the score at 3-3.
Grace went into its second extra-innings battle of the day after neither team found the winning play in regulation. The Knights threatened to score in the top of the ninth with two baserunners, but Grace’s defense backed Alex Shipley on the mound to keep Marian off the scoreboard.
Herbster sparked Grace in the bottom of the ninth with a one-out single. A ground out moved Herbster to second, bringing up Turner. The freshman came through in a big way, doubling to center field to allow Herbster to plate for the winning run.
Herbster scored two runs on three hits to pace Grace’s offense, and Elliott was 3-for-4. Kleinbub batted 2-for-3, and Turner had a double, a steal and an RBI.
Shipley had a gutsy performance from the mound, throwing all nine innings and muting Marian’s dangerous bats. The Knights came into the game ranked No. 5 in the nation for team batting average and total hits, but Shipley limited the Knights to three runs and eight hits, striking out six batters in a memorable outing.