ANGOLA, Ind.-- A three-run sixth inning led Trine to a 5-3 victory in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Softball Regional Thursday afternoon at SportONE/Parkview Softball Field.
Kaylee Fox (Vermilion, Ohio / Edison) launched a solo homer run to lead off the bottom of the sixth and break a two-all tie. Later in the inning, Rachel Zink (Gahanna, Ohio / Gahanna Lincoln) came off the bench to deliver a clutch, two-run double to extend Trine's lead to 5-2. Justine Robles (Long Beach, Calif. / Lakewood) earned the victory in relief and kept a seventh-inning Lady Panther rally to one run as she closed out the game.
Trine advances to face Wheaton tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Wheaton defeated University of Chicago 7-1 in the opening game of the tournament. The winner of the game advances to Saturday's championship round.
A two-out walk drawn by Lainey McCue (Westlake, Ohio / Westlake) extended the inning in the bottom of the second to set the stage for the first Thunder runs of the game. Catherine Porter (Canton, Mich. / Plymouth Canton) followed with the big hit, launching a 2-0 pitch over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer to give Trine the lead. The homer was the junior's second of the season.
Greenville mounted the next rally to tie the score in the fifth. With two on and one out, Andrea Martin laced a double down the left field line to plate both runs and knot the score at two-apiece. Martin was one of four Lady Panthers with two or more hits. Greenville threatened to score more, but Robles came out of the bullpen to induce a double play to keep the game tied.
The score would remain that way until Fox deposited a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall for her team-leading 11th home run of the season. The sophomore moved into a tie for fourth in team history with the home run, which was the 27th of her collegiate career.
A walk drawn by Rachell Noble (Indianapolis, Ind. / Decatur Central) and a single by McCue put two runners on base later in the inning. Zink entered as a pinch-hitter to provide another clutch hit, clearing the bases with a two-run double to the left-center gap. Zink has shown a knack for the big hit off the bench this season, batting .429 as a pinch-hitter.
McCue provided another bright spot offensively for Trine. The freshman reached base safely in all three plate appearance, collecting two hits and drawing a walk in her NCAA postseason debut.
The insurance runs provided by Zink's hit loomed large as the Lady Panthers mounted a rally in the seventh. Tiffany Samsoe doubled home a run with one out to cut the score to 5-3. After a Robles strikeout, Laney Thacker extended the game with a single to put the tying run on base. Robles was able to induce a weak popout for the final out to stop the Greenville rally.
Robles earned the victory in relief, striking out three in 2.2 innings of work. The senior allowed an earned run on three hits. Robles improved to 14-7 with the win. Her next win will be the 50th of her career.
Samsoe led Greenville with three hits. Thacker, Martin and Bryn McKie added two hits each.
The Lady Panthers will face University of Chicago in an elimination game tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. The winner will face the loser of the matchup between Trine and Wheaton. The loser of the matchup between Greenville will be eliminated from the postseason.
Trine improved to 31-12 on the season with the victory. The Lady Panthers fell to 23-21-1 overall.