Montclair, NJ (5/17/09) – Freshman righthander Jessica Rhoads has gotten better in each of her outings in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship at Montclair State University. It she continues that trend, there’s a good chance that Messiah College will wind up with a national title.
Rhoads did it all again for the Falcons for the second straight day as she struck out 19 in a one-hit performance and also provided the offense with a two-run homer in the first inning as Messiah moved within one win of its first national title with a 2-0 victory over Coe College on Sunday afternoon.
Coe will face Gustavus Adolphus at noon on Monday with the winner moving on to face Messiah at 2:30 in the first championship contest. Should Messiah falter, a winner-take-all contest is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19.
For the second time in as many days, Rhodes turned in stellar performances both on the mound and at the plate to lead Messiah (42-4), which is the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament at 3-0. The righthander retired the last 12 outs of the game on strikeouts. The 19 K’s by Rhodes was two shy of the NCAA Division III Championship record of 21 strikeouts in a seven-inning game, set by Jennifer Martinez of St. Joseph’s (L.I.) College against Bridgewater State in a first-round game at Providence, RI in 2008. Rhodes has now struck out 40 batters in 21 innings pitched in the tournament.
The Gusties pulled out a pair of wins to remain alive and advance to Monday’s action. Kirsten Prunty belted her second home run of the tournament, a three-run shot in the first inning as Gustavus scored five times in the bottom of the first to erase a 3-0 deficit en route to a 10-4 victory over Salisbury University. Senior righthander Erin Trubenbach threw a three-hit shutout as the Gusties fought off a second elimination contest, blanking Tufts, 5-0.
Tufts University put forth the best appearance by a New England Region squad in eight years as the Jumbos finished in fourth place following a split of their two contests. Tufts used a pair of two-run home runs by All-American Leah Cantone and Casey Sullivan, and a stellar pitching performance by sophomore righthander Izzie Santone in posting a 4-0 shutout victory over the University of Texas at Tyler.