ASHLAND, Va. – A five-run third inning proved to be enough for top-ranked Virginia Wesleyan, defeating an upset-minded Franklin & Marshall team 5-0 on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament for both teams. The Diplomats fell to 17-22 on the year, while the Marlins improved to 44-2 with the win.
F&M will return to the diamond tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., taking on hosts Randolph-Macon in the first elimination game of the Ashland, Va. regional. A win in that game would advance the Diplomats to another elimination game at 4:00 p.m.
Both teams had scoring opportunities in the early innings, with the Diplomats getting two aboard in the top of the first after Taylor Long singled and Lexi Piccinich was hit by a pitch. Virginia Wesleyan recorded three hits over the first two innings, but at the end of the second Izzy Schaefer of F&M and VWU's Hanna Hull had both pitched their way to a 0-0 score.
The No. 1 Marlins finally broke through in the bottom of the third, stringing together four hits on the way to a five-run inning. Hull solidified the 5-0 lead for VWU, pitching a hitless fourth and fifth to keep the Diplomats scoreless.
Schaefer worked her way through a quick fourth, but needed help in the fifth to keep the deficit at five. Katie Wenger came on in relief of the F&M starter, forcing a fly ball to get the Diplomats out of a bases-loaded jam.
F&M recorded a hit in the both the sixth and seventh, but were unable to push any runs across as the Marlins emerged with the 5-0 victory.
Schaefer (11-13) took the loss for the Diplomats, allowing five earned in 4 2/3 innings. Hull (25-2) struck out nine to earn the win for VWU.