Anderson, Ind. – The Transylvania softball team completed its ascent back to the top of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Sunday afternoon, defeating the Franklin College Grizzlies, 6-3 in the HCAC Tournament Championship Game.
The No. 2 seed Pioneers captured their first HCAC Tournament title since 2010, stampeding to the title in three games over three days.
After a decisive eight-run rule win against No. 3 seed Defiance on Friday, the Pioneers held off the No. 4 seed Grizzlies with a one-run win on Saturday and turned around Sunday afternoon to beat the Grizzlies a second time.
By winning the conference tournament championship, the Pioneers clinch their first trip to the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament since 2010. The Pioneers added the conference tournament title to their second consecutive regular-season title after a 12-4 regular season run through the conference.
Transylvania picked up its 31st victory of the season Sunday to enhance its record to 31-11 and complete a run back to national prominence under the direction of third-year head coach Shawn Hendrickson, who raised his first HCAC Championship plaque after inheriting a team three seasons ago that was coming off a 14-win season.
The Pioneers completed their run to the HCAC Championship by putting together a torrid attack down the stretch, scoring five runs over the final three innings to erase a deficit and win by three runs.
Senior infielder Shelby Bailey led the offense in the final game of the tournament, going 3-for-4 from the plate with a triple and one RBI. Bailey provided three of 10 Transy hits as the Pioneers won their sixth straight game dating back to the end of the regular season.
Junior pitcher Renae Morton picked up her 17th win of the season as she picked up her third complete game win in as many games, manning the circle for all 20 innings of the Pioneers' conference tournament championship run.
Morton was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player in striking out four Franklin hitters on Sunday, walking just one, and allowing one earned run.
As the designated visiting team against Franklin, the Pioneers led off the game with a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Bailey drove in sophomore outfielder Shelby Gambrell with a one-out triple.
Transylvania clung to the one-run lead until the bottom of the third, when Franklin exploded for its lone scoring inning of the game. The Grizzlies tied the game on a one-out RBI from Alexis Tarver, and scored twice more after a fielding error from Morton extended the inning.
The Pioneers recovered, beginning in the top of the fifth inning, when sophomore infielder Brittany Mumford blasted a solo home run to left field to cut Franklin's lead to 3-2. The Pioneers later tied up the game in the inning on a sacrifice fly RBI from sophomore designated player Sydney Motell that scored Gambrell for the last tie of the game.
Transylvania went back to work in the top of the sixth inning, taking a 4-3 lead on an RBI single from freshman catcher Janelle Hynes that scored sophomore first baseman Jordan Kramer. Moments later, junior outfielder Madison Dorsey came home on a wild pitch to put Transylvania two runs ahead at 5-3.
The Pioneers secured one more insurance run in the top of the seventh when Bailey scored from third on an infield error to give Transylvania a 6-3 lead heading into the final half-inning. Transylvania's final task was swift as Morton retired the side to wrap up Transylvania's marvelous three-day run at Anderson University's Raven Field.
In defeating Franklin on Sunday for the conference title, Transylvania won its third HCAC Conference Tournament championship in program history, and will advance to its third NCAA Softball Tournament in the history of Pioneer softball.
The Pioneers will discover their tournament assignment tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. eastern time during the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament Selection Show, which will stream online at NCAA.com.
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2017 HCAC Softball All-Tournament Team
P - Renae Morton, Transylvania (MVP)
C - Janelle Hynes, Transylvania
1B - Grace Paszek, Franklin
2B - Shelby Bailey, Transylvania
3B - Brooke Gostomsky, Defiance
SS - Brittany Mumford, Transylvania
OF - Jordan Osborne, Defiance
OF - Shelbi Poehlein, Transylvania
OF - Megan Lalioff, Franklin
At-large - Baylee Lyons, Franklin
At-large - Shelby Gambrell, Transylvania
At-large - Taylar Kelso, Anderson