EWING, N.J. --- The No. 8 Moravian College softball team rallied late to force extra innings before falling to Salisbury (Md.) University, 3-2 in eight innings, in the opening game of the NCAA Division III Ewing, New Jersey Regional Friday afternoon.
The Greyhounds, now 32-6 on the season, will play in the first elimination game on Saturday, May 12 at 12:30 p.m. against host The College of New Jersey, who fell to Johnson & Wales (R.I.) University, 3-1, in the second game on Friday. The Blue & Grey were playing Salisbury for the ninth time in the NCAA Division III Tournament with the Sea Gulls now holding a 5-4 record in a series that includes five one-run games and two extra-inning contests.
"We didn't hit the ball, which was key that we didn't do, and we didn't make plays when we had to," stated Head Coach John Byrne, who was coaching his 76th career NCAA Tournament game. "On this stage you can't give anybody those opportunities because they are going to take advantage of them. We came back but it was too little, too late. You can't go through four or five innings with subpar at-bats. We didn't hit the ball hard all day, even on the hits that we had. On this level, you have to win every inning and we weren't able to do that today. Tomorrow is a new day so hopefully we come out and play the way I know we can play."
Moravian had five hits in the game with junior center fielder Kat Spilman going 2-for-4 and scoring a run.
Senior pitcher Josie Novak tossed a complete game in the circle for the Greyhounds with three runs, two earned, on eight hits and two walks to go with nine strikeouts, her sixth outing of the year with at least nine strikeouts. Novak, who is 17-3 this spring, raised her career strikeout total to 614.
"It is always a thrill to play in the NCAAs and we missed playing in the tournament, so it was good to be back," Novak said of her third trip to the NCAA Regionals. "I was able to get ahead of some batters, which helps to keep them off balance."
Salisbury jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead with a leadoff home run by LeAnne Collins in the top of the first inning.
The Sea Gulls added another run in the top of the fifth inning on an error to push the advantage to 2-0 as the Blue & Grey forced Salisbury to leave the bases loaded in the inning.
The Greyhounds' first opportunity to score came in the bottom of the fifth frame when senior first baseman Jean Markovic connected on a one-out double before being stranded at second base.
Moravian would push a pair of runs across the plate in the bottom of the sixth to knot the score at 2-2. Freshman shortstop Maddisen Bieber hit a one-out infield single to second base, and Spilman followed with a single to left center field. Junior Ashley Gindle came on to pinch run for Bieber, and senior catcher Janae Matos grounded out to move both runners into scoring position. Freshman designated player Shannon Brogan followed with a looping single over the first baseman's head and down the right field line to score Gindle and Spilman.
Salisbury pushed a run across the plate in the top of the eighth inning, and the Greyhounds were unable to get a runner on base in the bottom half of the frame.