BLOOMINGTON, Il. - Calvin claimed a pair of victories to stay alive in the NCAA III Tournament Friday afternoon. The Knights opened the afternoon with an 8-6 win over Otterbein and followed with a dramatic 8-4 victory over Milwaukee School of Engineering to close out the day. Ranked 25th nationally, Calvin (31-9) will face seventh-ranked Illinois Wesleyan on Saturday at noon (CST) in the regional finals.
Calvin 8, Otterbein 6
Calvin overcame an early 2-0 deficit with an eight-run outburst in the top of the second inning. Junior Hannah Horvath (Caledonia, Mich./Caledonia HS) tied the game with a two-run RBI single. Junior Grace Quiggle (Saranac, Mich./Lowell HS) later belted a three-run homer to give Calvin a 7-2 lead and senior Maddie DeGroot (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) followed with an RBI double to put the Knights up 8-2.
Otterbein (24-17) pecked away at the Calvin lead, scoring a run in the second, two in the third and one in the sixth. Sophomore Ellie Borst (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) was able to shut the door on the Cardinals in the seventh however to claim the pitching victory. Calvin outhit Otterbein 12-8. Junior Kayla Groen (Frankfort, Il./Lincoln-Way East HS) was 3-for-4 with a double. Horvath, freshman Hannah Biddlecome (Portage, Mich./Portage Northern HS) and sophomore Grace Stock (Vicksburg, Mich./Vicksburg HS) all had two hits apiece.
COACHES COMMENT: "It was really exciting to get out to that big lead," said Calvin head softball coach Becky Hilgert. "Our defense played strong and our pitchers did a good job of holding down a good-hitting Otterbein team to give us a chance to win."
Calvin 8, Milwaukee School of Engineering 4
A day after dropping a 7-5 decision to MSOE, Calvin came back to turn the tables on the Raiders with a dramatic seventh-inning rally. Quiggle belted a two-out grand slam home run to center in the top of the seventh to give the Knights a 7-4 lead and Groen followed with a solo home run to give the Knights an added run.
Groen put the Knights up 2-0 with a Carlton Fisk-like home run that hit the left field foul pole in the top of the second with a runner on base. MSOE (33-12) answered with three runs in the bottom of the second and added another in the third to build a 4-2 lead.
Calvin's bats then went quiet until the seventh when the Knights mounted a one-out rally. Senior Kristen Newman (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea HS) drew a one-out walk and moved to second when Horvath walked as well on the next at bat. Biddlecome followed with an infield single through pitcher's circle to load the bases. Stock then punched a single into right field that brought home Newman to make it a 4-3 game. A strikeout put the Raiders one out away from victory but Quiggle refused to let the Knights lose. On a 2-1 pitch, Quiggle belted a towering fly ball to left-center that cleared the fence for her seventh home run of the season. The dramatic grand slam gave the Knights a 7-3 lead. Groen proceeded to give the Knights back-to-back long balls, ripping a solo shot to center, providing an 8-4 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, MSOE was able to load the bases with two outs but Borst closed out the game with a ground ball that DeGroot was able to glove and step on third for the final out of the game.
Groen went 2-for-3 to stretch her hitting streak to 11 games. Biddlecome and Quiggle had two hits apiece. Borst got the win in relief, going the final 4.2 innings to up her season record to 16-5. Horvath and junior Abi Colon (Caledonia, Mich./South Christian HS) also turned a key double play in the second to help choke off an MSOE run.
COACHES COMMENT: "The thing I love about our team is they don't panic," said Becky Hilgert. "In the seventh inning before we went out I heard our team say our season is not ending today. We are finishing this. It started with that big walk by Kristen Newman. It was a very patient, unselfish at bat. She didn't chase any bad pitches and got on base to help set the tone. That got their defense and their pitchers a little nervous. When Quiggle connected I wasn't sure it was gone at first but once it kept going there was no doubt. I've never had a situation where it's been two plateaus where you're this close to having your season ended and one pitch later you're way up there and incredibly excited. It was just awesome to see our players so excited and have the chance to live to play another day."
PLAYERS COMMENT: "I went up there thinking that my team had done such a great job of getting on base and giving us an opportunity to win," said Quiggle. "I just kept smiling when I went up to the plate because of my team. I just swung and ran to first base. I didn't want to look and then it was over the fence."
"Our offense is crazy good at coming up with rallies and I had a great defense behind me," said Borst. "As a pitcher that gives you a lot of confidence because you know your team is always giving you a great chance to win the game."
NEXT UP: Calvin will face Illinois Wesleyan at noon (CST) in the regional championship game Saturday. The Knights will need to beat the Titans (35-7) twice on Saturday to win the regional crown as Illinois Wesleyan is 2-0 in the regional tournament. The two teams met back on March 16 with the Knights upsetting the then No. 2 ranked Titans 3-2.
SATURDAY LIVE STREAM: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/iwu/portal.htm?eventId=533972&streamType=video
SATURDAY LIVE STATS: https://sun.iwu.edu/~iwunews/sports/live/Softball/xlive.htm