Pritchett's belt helps send VWC to championship game
SALEM, Va. -- Paige Pritchett made the most of her one time at bat in Friday's Old Dominion Athletic Conference winner's bracket finale game for the Virginia Wesleyan College softball Marlins.
Pritchett (Gordonsville, Va./Orange County) rocketed the ball past the third baseman and into left field, scoring Tori Higginbotham (Glen Allen, Va./J.R. Tucker), who opened the inning with a single down the right field line. She stole second and moved to third on a ground out, setting things up for Pritchett.
It all took place in the bottom of the fifth inning at the James I. Moyer Complex, where the solo run held up in an intense battle that resulted in a thrilling 1-0 VWC victory over Randolph College's WildCats. The victory moves Virginia Wesleyan (28-9) into Saturday's ODAC championship game at 2 p.m., against the winner of Friday's night's loser bracket finale between Bridgewater College (28-9) and Randolph (21-18).
Friday's game had an ironic twist, as VWC and Randolph entered the showdown as the highest scoring teams in the ODAC tournament. But, it turned out to be a battle of defenses and pitching, with Virginia Wesleyan rookies taking the spotlight, including Higginbotham and Pritchett. It extended in the top of the seventh as well, when Randolph threatened with two runners on, two outs, and the lead-off batter stepping to the plate. Tianna Strassner (Hollywood, Fla./American Heritage) got the ball to drop behind third base, but VWC rookie shortstop Andrea Shannon (Newville, Pa./Big Spring) alertly followed the ball, picked it up and raced to third for the force out, and third out, before the Randolph runner could get to the bag.
VWC rookie pitcher MacKenzie Creech (Hillsborough, N.C./Orange) turned in another solid effort in the circle and set a Virginia Wesleyan first year record with her 17th victory. That breaks the former record of 16 rookie pitching wins set by VWC Hall of Famer Tina Clark in 1985 and tied by Heidi Hill in 1998. Creech pitched a three-hitter against Randolph, walking three and striking out seven.
Randolph started with Brittany Via (Charlottesville, Va./Monticello) in the circle, before bringing in Logan Carter (Richmond, Va./Midlothian) to face the final six batters. They allowed six hits, but did not record a strikeout.
The WildCats had one runner on in four of the first six innings, but could not put together a threat until the top of the seventh. VWC had runners on in four of its six inning at bat, including two in the third. But, the Marlins could not find the big hit to bring in the runs until Pritchett's blast in the fifth.