After a 90 minute rain delay, the Denison Big Red punched its ticket to the 2012 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game following a 4-2 victory over DePauw. In their first game of the day, DU knocked off top-seeded Allegheny, 3-0.
Denison grabbed the early lead over the Tigers in the first inning. Senior Hannah Price opened the game with a base hit to center field. After a sacrifice bunt by rookie Julie Rooney moved Price into scoring position, sophomore Rachel Laughlin belted a double to right center that plated the senior and put DU ahead by a run. In the third, a pair of runs extended the Big Red lead to 3-0. After Laughlin reached on an error to open the frame, sophomore catcher Meghan Edwards made the Tigers pay with a towering home run over the wall in left center. The Tigers trimmed the deficit to two in the bottom of the inning when a wild pitch scored Rachel MacBeth from third.
DePauw struck again in the fifth when Emily Dieckmann hit a two-out single that scored Holly Paris and shrunk the deficit to 3-2. After walk issued to Kate Hendrickson loaded the bases with two outs, head coach Tiffany Ozbun made a call to the bullpen. Sophomore Becca Dyer escaped the late-game jam by striking out pinch hitter Lauren Krumwiede.
In the sixth inning, Price roped a one-out double to center. After moving to third on a wild pitch, a hot shot back to Tiger reliever Emily Bichler allowed the senior to add the insurance run. With two down and a 2-1 count on Laughlin, the heavy rains began to fall which forced the delay. Even though the rain only lasted a few minutes, the thunder and lightning extended the stoppage to an hour and a half. When play resumed, a highlight reel play in left by MacBeth robbed Laughlin of a hit. DePauw did get a one-out single from Cymone Allen in the bottom of the sixth, but a fly out to Kait Fiore and a ground out to Rooney extinguished a potential threat.
In the seventh, the Tigers had their five, six and seven batters scheduled to hit. Paris opened the inning with a fly ball that was corralled in left by Fiore. Haley Buchanan drew a free pass to bring the game-tying run to the plate. With one out, Dyer got Dieckman to ground into a 1-6-3 double play to end the game and secure the Big Red's place in the championship game.
Sophomore hurler Kelsey Hager picked up her team-leading 11th win of the season after surrendering two runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings of work. Dyer notched her first save of the year following a one-hit, two-strikeout performance in relief.
The DU offense was powered by sophomore Heather Larsen and Price, who logged five of the eight Big Red hits. Larsen was a perfect 3-for-3 with a double, while Price went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Laughlin, Edwards and junior Jess Robertson recorded the other three hits for Denison.
Against the Gators, Dyer and Allegheny rookie Caitlin Nealer were locked in a pitcher's duel early in the contest. Nealer held the Big Red hitless through the first three frames, while Dyer allowed just one hit during that stretch. Price broke up the no-no bid with a base hit to lead off the fourth. After a Rooney sacrifice moved Price up 60 feet, a base knock through the right side put runners at the corners with one out. The senior scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a wild pitch by Nealer.
Allegheny had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the frame when Maureen Pallone hit a single up the middle. However, a heads up play by Edwards and Dyer erased Sadie Stuart at the plate and allowed Denison to maintain its one-run lead.
DU looked to add some insurance in the seventh after Robertson and Larsen reached safely with one out. With two outs, Gretchen Staubach increased the Big Red advantage with a double to right that scored Larsen and Emily Lipsitz. In the bottom of the inning, Stuart hit a double to left center to give Allegheny some life, but a strikeout by Dyer and a pop out to Lipsitz put the Gators on life support. The sophomore hurler closed the door on the tournament host by inducing a pop up that was corralled by Edwards in foul territory.
Dyer (pictured left) scattered five hits and struck out six en route to her sixth win and fourth shutout this year. Price, Laughlin, Larsen, and Staubach accounted for Denison's four hits.
Denison moves to 26-16 following the pair of wins on Friday. The Big Red returns to the field on Sunday in the NCAC Tournament Championship Game. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m.