Anderson, Ind. – Sophomore outfielder Shelbi Poehlein amassed three hits and a three-run home run as the Transylvania softball team marched to a 10-2 victory against the Defiance College Yellow Jackets in the opening game of the 2017 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Softball Tournament Friday afternoon at Raven Field.
The Pioneers commenced the first game of the conference tournament with a convincing win, becoming the first team in the four-team tournament to vault into the winner's bracket. Transylvania will face the winner of Saturday's game between No. 1 seed Anderson and No. 4 seed Franklin at approximately 3:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Playing in bleak and wet conditions at Anderson University's Raven Field, the opening game of the tournament featured plenty of offense. Transylvania gathered 13 hits on the day to eight for Defiance as the Pioneers pulled away late with multi-run outbursts in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.
The Pioneers and Yellow Jackets took turns brusquely testing one another in the opening innings as Defiance scored one run in the top of the first inning, and Transylvania answered with one run in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 1-1. An RBI single from Poehlein drove in senior infielder Shelby Bailey for Transylvania's first run of the afternoon.
Defiance swung back again in the top of the third inning via an RBI double to go in front 2-1, but as was the case in the first inning, the Pioneers erased the lead in the bottom of the third. A one-out RBI from Bailey drove home sophomore infielder Brittany Mumford from third and the game stood tied once again.
Transylvania began making its move in front in the following inning as the first two Pioneers batters reached base, sophomore infielder Meg Liter with a single, and sophomore first baseman Jessica Powell with a single into left field.
Junior outfielder Destiny Garcia pushed both runners one base forward with a sacrifice bunt. Freshman catcher Janelle Hynes then came through with an early-career clutch moment, banging a double to score both runners to put the Pioneers ahead 4-2.
Transylvania accelerated away from the Yellow Jackets in the fifth inning with Poehlein's most explosive moment of the season. Bailey led off with a walk, and designated player Sydney Motell crushed a double into right field to place two runners on base. Sensing her moment, Poehlein smacked a home run into left field, her first of the season, to certify a 7-2 lead for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers continued their string of four straight innings with a run in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs and sophomore outfielder Shelby Gambrell aboard at second, Motell hit a ball that was mishandled by the Defiance shortstop, allowing Gambrell to score Transy's eighth run of the game. Poehlein took advantage of Defiance's error by smacking a double to right center to score Bailey for a 9-2 lead.
Transylvania finished off the Yellow Jackets in the sixth on a walk-off RBI single from Liter that brought home Motell, as all of Transy's three runs in the sixth were unearned.
Despite allowing eight hits, junior pitcher Renae Morton fanned six batters and issued zero walks as she cruised to her 15th victory of the season in the complete-game effort.
Following in Poehlein's footsteps, Bailey, Motell, Liter and Hynes each grabbed two hits in the victory, with four Pioneers capturing doubles.
As beneficiaries of the adjusted three-day tournament format due to rainy weather in the Indianapolis area, the Pioneers will play one game on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. against the winner of game 2 between Anderson or Franklin. The Pioneers would play in game 5 of the tournament on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. with a Saturday loss, or at 1:00 p.m. Sunday with a Saturday win.
Co-champions of the regular season with Anderson and regular-season champions for the second consecutive year, the Pioneers are seeking their first conference tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth since 2010.
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