SPRINGFIELD, Ohio—Denison softball opened the day with a tall task in front of them. After an extra-inning loss to DePauw in Friday's North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament opener, the Big Red needed to win four-straight games to capture the tournament championship.
No one will ever be able to question the toughness of this bunch. Denison eliminated Allegheny from the tournament with a 14-10 win to start the day. They gutted out an incredible 5-4 win over the top-seeded Wittenberg Tigers in 13 innings to eliminate them from the tournament. Then they took DePauw to the brink, tying the game when they were down to their last strike, only to fall on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh, ending a 7 hour and 21-minute softball marathon for DU.
Let's fast-forward right to the championship.
The Tigers got to Big Red starter Colleen Hoffman in the fourth when Maddie Montgomery dropped suicide squeeze bunt that scored Mina Shaw with DePauw's first run of the game. After another bunt single loaded the bases, Bekka Roberts laced a single to right that cleared the bases.
DePauw entered the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. Denison got a rally going quickly when Emilie Fisher led off with a single. A strikeout and a fielder's choice had the Big Red down to their last out and Amanda Howell delivered a single to center, that moved Secaras to second. On a 0-2 count, Bagan smashed a double to center scoring pinch runners Charlotte Happel and Maddie Crull with the tying runs.
In the seventh, Hoffman retired Liz Getz with the first out but Kaylyn Linder reached on an error. An infield single by Linder put two runners on, setting the table for Sidney Holler to come through with the game-winning hit.
Emma Baldwin went the distance for DePauw and allowed nine hits and three earned runs to improve to 10-8. Hoffman dropped to 9-4 and allowed five earned runs on 12 hits. Lindsey Clemson was 3-for-4 and Bagan was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and one run scored.
In the 5-4 elimination game win over Wittenberg, Denison's Sarah Herold went head-to-head with Tiger starter Chelsea Zang in a classic. Zang pitched 12.1 innings and threw 162 pitches. Herold went all 13 innings and threw 158 pitches.
Wittenberg led 4-3 in the 13th but Denison fought back in the bottom of the 13th. With Herold on second base to start the inning because of the international tiebreaker rules, she promptly stole third base in an effort to not take the bat out of the hands of Denison's best hitter, Secaras. She came through with a ground out to the pitcher that scored Herold from third to tie the game at 4-4. Howell followed with a double to the gap in right-center and Bagan followed with the walk-off double to right, propelling Denison into the championship.
In addition to her brilliance in the circle, Herold was 2-for-6 with two runs scored and an RBI. Howell was also 2-for-6 with a double.
The first game of the day saw the Big Red pound out 20 hits and defeat Allegheny 14-10 thanks to four runs in the bottom of the sixth. DU was led offensively by Mckinly Vazquez, who was 4-for-5, and Herold who went 3-for-4. Hoffman got the start and pitched two innings. Secaras worked 2.2 innings of relief before handing off to Herold who worked 2.1 innings to get the win.
Denison's season comes to an end in the championship of the NCAC Tournament for the second-straight year. They end with a record of 26-10, marking the 10th time in program history a Denison team has won 25-games or more.
Herold, Bagan, Vazquez, and Clemson were named to the All-Tournament team. DePauw's Baldwin was named the tournament's most valuable player.