COLUMBIA, MO. (NewsDakota.com) – Valley City State scored two runs in the game’s first three batters and freshman pitcher Emilee Wilson made the lead stand up Wednesday as the Vikings punched their ticket to the NAIA Softball World Series.
Wilson pitched a complete game three-hitter as top-seeded Valley City State University defeated No. 2 seed Columbia College 7-2 in the NAIA Softball Opening Round Championship Game.
Valley City State advances to the NAIA Softball World Series, which will be played May 23-29 in Springfield, Mo. The World Series is a 10-team double-elimination tournament to decide the national champion. The Vikings enter the tournament with a 54-3 overall record and a 21-game winning streak dating back to April 14.
This will be VCSU’s first appearance at the NAIA World Series in its current format, which started in 2013. The Vikings qualified for a 20-team national tournament in 2006, losing out in pool play, and in 1982 to the Vikings placed 7th at the national tournament.
Just like Tuesday’s winner’s bracket game against Columbia, the Vikings struck quickly in Wednesday’s championship. Joelle Aiello led off the game with a double to left-center. Voni Culp followed with a single and moved to second on the throw in, putting two runners in scoring position. Emily Smith then blooped a single into right field, scoring both Aiello and Culp for a 2-0 lead just three batters into the game.
In a scary moment later in the inning, Smith was thrown out at the plate trying to score and left the game with an apparent leg injury. Smith was slated to start at pitcher, but the injury meant freshman Emilee Wilson took over in the circle. For the second straight day Wilson shut down Columbia’s offense, holding the Cougars scoreless through the first six innings.
Columbia threatened in the bottom of the second inning, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Wilson induced a groundout to third base for the first out, and then third baseman Marissa Hawkins turned a 5-3 double play to end the inning.
Wilson set down nine batters in a row in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning which allowed the Vikings to extend their lead to 7-0.
After the big first inning, VCSU’s offense was quiet until the top of the sixth inning. Riley Perryman led off the inning with a double to the left-field corner and Autumn Perry reached on a one-out walk, putting runners on first and third. Perry stole second base to put two runners in scoring position, and Kadie Anderson delivered a 2-run single through the left side, scoring both runners for a 4-0 lead.
The Vikings added three more runs in the top of the seventh, getting a two-run triple by Perryman and an RBI groundout from Perry to make it 7-0.
Columbia loaded the bases in the seventh inning and plated its two runs on an RBI groundout and a throwing error before VCSU shortstop Joelle Aiello made a strong throw from the hole and Anderson made a great stretch at first base for the final out.
Columbia ends its season with a 37-12 overall record.
VCSU collected 10 hits in the game, including two each by Cup and Perryman. Culp scored twice, while Perryman doubled and tripled as she scored twice and drove in two runs. Anderson was 1-for-4 with two RBIs, and Smith went 1-for-1 with two RBIs.
Wilson went the distance in the circle, giving up just three hits and the two seventh-inning runs. She walked two and struck out four.
Columbia’s Lexi Dickerson took the loss after pitching the first inning, giving up three hits and two runs. Molly Carter and Natalie Dummitt each had a hit and scored a run for Columbia.
Up next: Valley City State will play in the NAIA Softball World Series, May 23-29 in Springfield, Mo. The final bracket for the tournament will be announced later this week.
(submitted by Mark Potts)