COSTA MESA, Calif. - Having clawed their way back from the brink of elimination to make it to the GSAC Softball Tournament championship round, the Vanguard University Lions (46-13) hosted the William Jessup Warriors (22-19) . After losing to the Warriors yesterday, the Lions were able to beat the Warriors 6-2 in game one, extending the contest to game two, where they dug deep to grind out a narrow 1-0 victory.
Game One: Vanguard 6, William Jessup 2
Eager to capture their first ever tournament championship, the Warriors started off on the front foot with two runs in the top of the first inning. However, the Lions produced an immediate response in the bottom of the first, with Payton Ross making it a 2-1 game. Ross initially got on base after singling to center field, before running home following Samantha Shaffer double to right centerfield. The second inning remained stagnant, but the Pride were able to take the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third. Ross scored her second run of the day, while Taylor Wilson and Summer Penner scored their first runs of the day. This 4-2 lead was extended in the bottom of the fifth inning, with Wilson and Ross scoring their second and third runs respectively. These final two runs effectively ended the contest, with the Warriors unable to produce past the opening inning. Ross led the way offensively, scoring three runs while going 2-for-3 at the plate. On the defensive side, Britany Heinle pulled off a fine fielding performance with 11 putouts. Courtney Thornhill started on the mound, before being replaced by Kolbi Tonini. Tonini proved to be a shrewd substitution, conceding a total of four hits and zero runs for the win.
Game Two: Vanguard 1, William Jessup 0
With neither side able to register a hit in the first three innings, game two was destined to be decided by the slimmest of margins. This destiny was realized in the top of the fifth inning, by the same player responsible for keeping the Lions alive against San Diego Christian. After getting on base following a bunt at the beginning of the inning, Morgan Pilbin had her sight set on home plate. With Emily Howard's single up the middle, Pilbin dashed home for her second game-winning run in two days. The Blue and Gold's stellar defense shutout the Warriors, who were unable to score after the opening inning in game one. Vanessa Dwyer started and pitched all seven innings, limiting the opposition to two hits all game.
the tournament winner, Vanguard earns the GSAC's automatic bid to the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round. Vanguard will be host to one of 10 double-elimination 4-team Opening Rounds held around the country, May 15-17. The champion of each Opening Round will advance to play in the 37th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Clermont, Florida, that runs May 26 – June 1. The World Series is a 10-team double-elimination tournament held at Legends Way Fields.