Story by Chad Waller, Director of Communications & Sports Information
Pictures courtesy of Rick Dominowski, Click HERE to order
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Box Score) Bryn Houlton and Ashli Hafford combined for a three-hit shutout as No. 3 St. Gregory’s (Okla.) shut out No. 8 Marian (Ind.), 4-0, this afternoon in the elimination bracket of the 36th Annual NAIA Softball World Series, presented by Security National Bank and Morningside College. Hafford was credited with her second save of the year as she retired the final three batters in the seventh inning with the tying run at the plate.
The Cavaliers now meet up with the loser of No. 2 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) and No. 6 Southeastern (Fla.) Tuesday at 4 p.m. CDT.
The first six innings belonged to Houlton in the circle. She retired the first eight Marian batters of the game before Hannah Williams laced a two-out single in the top of the third. The fourth-through-sixth innings were pretty much the same as Houlton only allowed a baserunner on an infield error.
The seventh inning was a different story. With Marian trailing 4-0, Maddie Mulinaro led off with a single and moved to second on a Morgan Burtron base hit. Mackenzie Reeder pushed everyone up a base with a walk. At that point, St. Gregory coach D.J. Sanchez went to the bullpen and brought in Hafford with the bases loaded.
Hafford, who is just as dangerous with her bat as she is with her arm, fanned two batters and got a fly-out to end the threat. The Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year is tied for third in the NAIA with 18 home runs. She also owns a 12-3 pitching record and a 2.63 ERA in 25 appearances.
Hafford and Houlton bounced back after a dreadful two-game pitching performance in the World Series. Coming into today, the pair had allowed 16 combined runs on 20 hits in the last 13 innings.
The pitching effort was only part of the St. Gregory success story.
With no score in the game, Sammy Leisinger reached base on a single for St. Gregory’s in the bottom of the fourth. She crossed home plate on a Katie Godfrey double.
The Cavaliers sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth to break the game open. Two runs scored on a pair of Marian errors and Godfrey rapped her third double of the game to plate Leisinger.
Godfrey went 3-for-3 for the Cavaliers with two RBIs.
Three Marian batters each posted a base hit.
Houlton, who was rocked in her last pitching start in the opening game of the World Series against Southeastern (Fla.) (May 27), improved to 18-3 on the year. She allowed three hits – two of them in the seventh inning – and struck out five. Against Southeastern, Houlton gave up seven runs (five earned) in 3 1/3 innings in the 10-6 loss.
Marian’s Breena Smith took the loss to fall to 28-7. She allowed four runs (one earned) on six hits. She whiffed six batters.
Marian, playing in its first NAIA World Series since 2003, is eliminated with a 48-12 overall record.
Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all 19 games of the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series on the NAIA Network. The All-World Series package can be purchased for $29.95 or the day package for $9.95. For more information, including how to register for an account, click here.
The double-elimination event is being played out at the Elizabeth & Irving Jensen Softball Complex. The City of Sioux City and Morningside College serve as official hosts for the second-straight time. For more information on the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series, click here.