For the second-consecutive season, Maryville College advances to the USA South Championship Game, as the Scots used six extra-base hits to defeat Salem College, 9-3, in the semifinals.
Maryville looks to repeat as the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament Champions for the second year in a row, as MC followed two-hit performances by Alexus Murray, Ashton Hayden and Essence Strambler for the six-run victory.
"Right now, what's exciting to see for us, is that we're having good pitching and great hitting," Head Coach Leah Kelley said. "That's part of the game – being able to play on both sides of the ball, especially in the postseason. Today, we had offense and also defense. A lot of the time, our pitching has saved us in a lot of games. Now, it's good to see us playing on both sides."
Maryville remains in the winner's bracket, playing just one game on both tournament days thus far.
Katlyn Smith has tossed complete games in both performances – as Kelley says staying in the one-and-done format each day has been key to keeping her pitcher fresh.
"It's huge for resting and keeping everyone well-rested – our pitching well-rested," she said. "That's huge for us to come out and get wins."
The Scots advance to take on Averett University – a team they defeated 2-1 in extra innings on Friday afternoon.
The Cougars battled through a trio of back-to-back games on Saturday to advance from the winner's bracket. Averett has played five games in two days before heading into Championship Sunday.
First pitch is slated for noon on the Shuford Softball Complex with the if-needed game slated for 2 p.m.
"It's really exciting to be there again with an experienced team that has been there and done that," Kelley said. "Especially, playing well right now, it's exciting. It doesn't really matter who we play right now. As long as we play to our standard, I'll be happy."
Maryville College started the scoring on Saturday against Salem with a five-run second inning. Ballard doubled down the left-field line to lead off the inning, before Sarah Gordon followed suit to left-center, plating pinch runner Amaya Goodloe. Morgan Brewer plated pinch runner Grace Gordon with a two-out RBI single through the left side, before Ashton Hayden's single to right put a pair of runners on. Murray scored the both with a two RBI triple to right-center, as Strambler plated Murray with an RBI single of her own, 5-0.
Salem answered in the bottom of the inning, as Brianne Coleman lofted a two-run homer to center field. She scored Miranda Barker on the play, as the Spirits trailed 5-2.
Barker again found her way on base in the third, as she pushed Amanda Dacunto around third. The RBI single cut the Scots' lead to two, 5-3.
A three-run Maryville fourth gave the Scots back control, however, as Hayden singled to short and stole second. Strambler scored her from third with an RBI double down the left-field line, before Campbell's two-run homer to center made the score 8-3.
Murray posted her second RBI triple of the game in the top of the sixth, scoring Hayden for the 9-3 final.
Maryville (27-9) saw Murray go 2-for-4 with a pair of triples, three RBI and a run. Hayden was 2-for-3 with three runs, while Strambler was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run. Campbell was 1-for-4 with two RBI and a run, while Sarah Gordon was 1-for-4 with an RBI. Christina White was 1-for-1, while Brewer went 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Ballard and Joliff each posted a hit, while Goodloe and Grace Gordon bot scored a run.
Smith earned her 20th win in the circle, as the USA South Pitcher of the Year fanned 10 Spirits. She allowed just six hits and three earned runs, while walking only a pair.
Salem (25-16) was led by Coleman who went 1-for-1 with a pair of RBI, a run scored and two walks. Dacunto was 1-for-4 with a run.