For the second time in two years, Grace’s softball team beat Cedarville to secure a berth to the NCCAA World Series.
The Lady Lancers (31-25) knocked off the host Yellow Jackets (33-24) in the NCCAA Midwest Regional Tournament by the score of 3-2, earning a repeat trip to Botetourt, Va., for the World Series. It marks the first time in program history that Grace has reached consecutive national tournaments.
Ashley Kleinbub and Clarissa Knight teamed up to create the heroic moment in extra innings for Grace. With the score knotted at 2-2, Knight led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. She stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Kleinbub laced the game-winning single to right field to score Knight and send the Lady Lancers into a state of euphoria.
“I think reaching the NCCAA World Series two years in a row legitimizes the direction this program is going. The girls were on fire yesterday, and today they were determined to do what was needed to win,” said Grace head coach Heather Johnson. “Our freshmen have really grown up which helps us out a lot. Brittany [Turner] won the game for us against Marian, and Ashley [Kleinbub] did it today. I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”
It took Grace six innings to get on the scoreboard against Cedarville. By that point, Cedarville had crept ahead 2-0 thanks to a run in the second and fifth innings.
The Lady Lancers were unable to score in a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, but Grace made good on its runners in the sixth. A sacrifice fly from Kati Gregory brought in Knight for Grace’s first run in the sixth. Hannah Herbster was up next with two outs, and the freshman stepped up with an RBI single to score Chandler Elliott and tie the game.
Neither team could score the go-ahead run in the seventh, setting the stage for Kleinbub’s walkoff winner in the eighth.
Elliott went the distance from the mound, tossing a five-hitter in eight innings. She walked just one batter in her 15th complete game of the season.
Both sides finished with five hits in a defensive clash.
“I’m really proud of our seniors [Brooke Shell and Chelsea Whitesell]. They get a lot of credit for pushing this team to a different level, and now they get to end their careers at a national tournament,” Johnson said. “A couple days of rest will be great for us to wrap up school and then just focus on playing softball.”
The bracket and tournament field for the 2015 NCCAA World Series will be released on Sunday. Grace placed fourth in last year’s tournament.