Purple Aces Edge The Bulldogs, 2-1, In Eight Innings
OMAHA, Neb. – Hayley Fortner hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning for the No. 7 seed Evansville Purple Aces as they edged the No. 2 seed the Drake University softball team, 2-1, in eight innings in the semifinals of the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference championship at CU Sports Complex in Omaha, Neb.
Drake finishes the 2013 season at 29-20 as Evansville improves to 23-29 on the year. The Purple Aces advance to the MVC title game to face the No. 4 seed Northern Iowa Panthers tomorrow at 5:07 p.m. The winner earns the Valley’s automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Sophomore Rebekah Schmidt (Cottage Grove, Minn.) took the tough loss for the Bulldogs as she ends the season at 12-11. The right-hander came on in relief for starter junior Jordan Gronewold (Carlisle, Iowa) and pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on three hits, while punching out nine Aces. Gronewold went 1 2/3 innings allowing one run on one hit, but struggled with her command giving up four walks before being replaced in the circle.
Evansville struck first in the top of the second inning as Victoria Dellorto drew a bases load walk that scored Brianna Villanueva to give the Purple Aces a 1-0 lead. Villanueva led off the inning with an infield single on a high, bouncing ball off a rock hard infield to Drake second baseman Lindsey Vande Wall (Prairie City, Iowa).
Schmidt answered for the Bulldogs in the bottom half of the frame smashing a two-out double off the center field wall. It was the first hit of the game off Evansville’s starter Sarah Patterson. Schmidt came around on an RBI single by junior catcher Cortney Wood (Alburnett, Iowa) to tie the game at 1-1.
The two teams held each other scoreless for the next six innings, before Evansville broke through in the top of the eighth inning as Hayley Fortner hit the solo shot off of Schimdt over the left field wall to put the Aces ahead 2-1.
Drake stranded runners on first and second base in the fourth inning. It looked like the Bulldogs had the go-ahead run in the sixth inning when Gronewold, who stayed in the game as the designated player, slapped a slow roller to Alicia Betancur at second base with runners on first and third and one out, but the Aces turned a 463 double play to get out of the inning.
The Bulldogs bounced back from the tough break in the sixth, as Schmidt was hit by a pitch to start the inning. After a sacrifice by Wood moved Schmidt to second, Vande Wall popped out to the third baseman and pinch hitter Liz Buck (Overland Park, Kan.) smashed a line drive, but Evansville’s shortstop Kacey Rogers was in perfect position to make the catch and get the Aces out of the jam.
The Bulldogs brought the top of the order to the plate in the bottom half of the eighth inning trailing 2-1. However, their bats’ went silent as they went in order to give the Purple Aces the win. Leadoff hitter Amy Pierce (Olathe, Kan.) popped out to the shortstop, Fortner made a nice catch in foul territory in left field on Silliman and Hayley Nybo (Minnetonka, Minn.) just got under the ball for a deep fly out to Fortner to end the game.
Silliman went 2-for-4 in her final game, while Vande Wall was 1-for-3 in her final contest. Junior Nicole Randel (Alpine, Calif.) went 2-for-3, while Wood and Schmidt each added one hit.