Designated player Hanna Sommer hit a go-ahead solo home run in the fifth inning and right-hander Emily Weiman retired nine of the final 10 batter she faced to guide North Carolina State to a 6-4 win over the James Madison softball team at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday.
The win improves N.C. State to 35-19-1 on the season and advances it to the Knoxville Regional Championship against the No. 7 Tennessee at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. JMU’s season ends with a school-record 42 wins and its first NCAA Tournament win after Saturday’s 5-0 win over Longwood. It went 42-17 and received the first at-large bid to NCAA postseason play in program history.
The game was suspended overnight with the game tied 4-4 in the top of the fifth inning. Play was initially just delayed as the team’s attempted to wait out the rain, but with wet playing conditions and the threat of more rain on the way, tournament officials decided to push the restart until 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
The Wolfpack scored twice in the final three innings after the delay to earn the 6-4 win.
Weiman earned the win for N.C. State to improve to 33-17. The sophomore allowed four runs, two earned, on eight hits in seven innings pitched. She struck out four and did not walk a batter in the complete-game effort.
Sophomore right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) took the loss after allowing six runs on eight hits in six innings of work. The Second Team All-Region selection struck out four and walked two on her way to dropping to 14-8 on the season. Freshman left-hander Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Grafton) tossed a perfect inning in relief.
Sommer paced the Pack offense going 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and a run scored. Center fielder Caitlin Dent added two RBIs and a run scored while catcher Kirsty Grant finished the game with two hits, including a double, and a run scored in three at-bats.
Sophomore center fielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) led the Dukes offense after going 3-for-4 with a trio of singles. Junior pinch hitter Catherine Clavin (Poquoson, Va./Poquoson) added a triple and two RBIs in her at-bat and junior left fielder Cassidy Clayton (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) went 1-for-3 with a RBI.
JMU capitalized on an N.C. State throwing error in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Heath and sophomore third baseman Sarah Mooney (Huntersville, N.C./North Mecklenburg) each reached by way of a single to put two on with one out. Ford followed with a sharp chopper right back to the pitcher who flipped to third for one out, but the relay throw over to first skipped past the first baseman and out of play, allowing Mooney to come in with the go-ahead run.
The Wolfpack strung together three consecutive two-out, run-scoring hits to take the lead in the top of the third. First baseman Leah Jones led off the inning with a single up the middle and moved to second on a ground-out. After a pop-out, the Dukes elected to intentionally walk Renada Davis, but second baseman Caitlin Dent made them pay with a single to right, scoring Jones. Davis also came in to score and Dent went all the way to third as the ball slipped by the Madison outfielder for an error. Right fielder Scout Albertson kept the rally going with a double down the left-field line, scoring Dent before Sommer capped the inning with a run-scoring single.
The Dukes battled back and tied the score in the bottom of the fourth. After Weiman got the first batter of the inning to fly-out, freshman catcher Erica Field (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) and senior designated player Megan Shinaberry (Davie, Fla./McCarthy) hit back-to-back singles to put two on with one out. Clavin followed with her second clutch pinch hit in as many games as she lined her first career triple in to the gap in right center scoring two. Clayton complete the inning with a single through the right side to even the score heading into the rain delay.
After the resumption of play on Sunday, Kiefer retired the first two batters she faced before Sommer put N.C. State out in front. The rookie designated player pulled a 2-1 pitch to left field that had just enough air under it to clear the fence for a solo home run.
The Wolfpack added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning on back-to-back doubles to start the inning. Catcher Kirsty Grant swung at the first pitch of the inning and lined a double to left-center field and came in to score whe Davis smacked a double over the center fielder’s head for a two-bagger.
The lead proved enough for N.C. State’s Weiman as she limited JMU to just one hit over the final three innings to secure the win.