Grace’s run in the Crossroads League Softball Tournament came to an end on Thursday.
The Lady Lancers (28-25) took down St. Francis 6-5 in an extra-inning thriller to start the day, but Taylor knocked Grace out of the tourney with a narrow 5-4 victory.
Out of the four tournament games Grace played in, three went to extra innings and all four were decided by one run. The Lady Lancers won their first league tournament games since 2003 this week. Grace now shifts its focus to qualifying for the NCCAA National Championships. The regional tournament will be held Monday and Tuesday at Cedarville.
Grace started the St. Francis game with authority, ripping off five runs in the top of the first inning. Brooke Shell led off the contest with a single and came around to score on a ground ball from Chandler Elliott. Ashley Kleinbub brought in another run with a single, and Grace loaded the bases with two outs. Alex Shipley singled which, coupled with a fielding error, cleared the bases for a 5-0 lead.
St. Francis had a five-run inning up its sleeve too, however. The Cougars (22-23) tied the game 5-5 in the third, plating all five runs with two outs.
Neither team could break the 5-5 deadlock over the next four innings, sending the game into extra innings for the third time in as many games for Grace.
In the top of the eighth, Clarissa Knight started the inning with a single. She then advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Elliott belted a timely double to give Grace a 6-5 lead.
Shipley took care of the rest from the mound. The junior struck out the first two batters and got the final one to pop out to Knight to win Grace’s second elimination game in a row.
Shell and Kleinbub were each 2-for-4 with a run scored, and Knight scored twice. Hannah Adams pitched three shutout innings of relief, and Shipley tossed the final two spotless innings.
While the Lady Lancers survived two elimination games in the double-elimination tournament, the gutsy Grace squad could not make it three in a row against Taylor.
Grace led 2-1 through three innings after Shipley’s two-out, two-RBI single in the second. But Taylor produced the decisive inning in the fourth, striking for four runs on four hits to lead 5-2. The Trojans (35-15) were beneficiaries of two Grace fielding errors during the inning.
The fifth inning saw Grace pull to within one run of Taylor. Knight doubled to plate Samantha Johnson, and Knight scored off a hit by Elliott. Grace still had two baserunners with one out in the inning, but the Lady Lancers were unable to tie the game. The Trojans made Grace pay; the Lady Lancers could not muster a runner in scoring position for the final two innings.
Elliott impressed with a 3-for-4 performance from the plate. Shipley pitched 3.1 innings in scoreless relief.