COLUMBIA, MO.   (VCSU) – The Valley City State softball team was down to its final out Tuesday morning before rallying for an extra-inning win at the NAIA Softball Championship Opening Round.

The Vikings scored one run in the seventh inning to force extras, and then scored twice in the eighth inning as they defeated Columbia College (Mo.) 5-3 in a winner’s bracket game.

The top-seeded Vikings trailed 3-2 before tying the game with a two-out rally in the top of the seventh inning. In the eighth inning it was another two-out rally – highlighted by Kadie Anderson‘s go-ahead RBI triple – that propelled VCSU to the extra-inning victory. All five of VCSU’s runs were scored with two outs.

“We had some kids really come up clutch with big two-out hits for us,” said VCSU head coach Mike Mook. “I think it comes down to desire; they’ve worked so hard for this and when it comes down to it they want to get all they can out of the experience.”

Valley City State (53-3) extends its winning streak to 20 games and advances to the championship of the opening round bracket at 11 a.m. Wednesday versus Columbia College. The Vikings are in control of the double-elimination tournament and will need to be beaten twice in the championship. The winner of Wednesday’s championship advances to the NAIA Softball World Series, May 23-29 in Springfield, Mo.

No. 2 seed Columbia College (36-11) drops into a loser-out game Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The Cougars will play the winner of No. 3 Brenau University and No. 4 Madonna University, who play at 1 p.m. Tuesday. If Columbia wins its 3:30 p.m. game, they will rematch with the Vikings in Wednesday’s championship. The Cougars would need to beat VCSU twice to win the tournament.

Valley City State struck quickly in the top of the first inning Tuesday, putting together a two-run rally for an early lead. Singles by Voni Culp and Riley Perryman put runners on first and second. Marissa Hawkins followed with a two-out RBI single, scoring Culp for a 1-0 lead. Hawkins and Perryman then successfully executed a first-and-third double steal as Perryman crossed the plate for a 2-0 lead. The RBI by Hawkins was her 59th of the season, setting a new single-season record at VCSU and breaking the old mark of 58 set by Cejay Hilhorst in 2016.

Columbia responded just as quickly in the bottom of the inning against VCSU starting pitcher Emily Smith. A one-out walk and single put two runners on for Mackenzie Kasarda, who drilled a two-run triple off the right-field fence to tie the game at 2-2. VCSU pitcher Emilee Wilson came on in relief and was able to limit the damage, working out of the jam with a groundout and strikeout to keep the game tied 2-2.

Neither team would score until the Cougars took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. With runners on first and second, Jacey Meyer singled up the middle. VCSU shortstop Joelle Aiello made a diving stop behind second base, but Molly Carter was hustling on the hit and  beat the throw home for a 3-2 lead. The Cougars proceeded to load the bases but Wilson induced a weak ground ball to third base and then recorded a strikeout the end the threat.

Valley City State was down to its final out in the top of the seventh before tying the game with a quick two-out rally. Joelle Aiello drilled a two-out triple to the left-center gap and then came in to score when Columbia’s shortstop was unable to handle Voni Culp‘s ground ball. Culp moved to second on a stolen base but Columbia worked out of the inning to keep the game tied 3-3.

Wilson walked Columbia’s leadoff hitter in the bottom of the seventh, but after a sacrifice bunt put the runner in scoring position Wilson was able to record a strikeout and ground out to end the inning.

The Vikings started the top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts before mounting the game-winning rally. Autumn Perry singled to left and then scored when Anderson lined a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line for the go-ahead RBI triple. Tatum Lundin followed with an RBI single to left, scoring Anderson for a 5-3 lead. Wilson and the Viking defense then set the Cougars down in order to end the game.

Wilson picked up the win after pitching the final 7 2/3 innings. The freshman right-hander allowed just six hits and one run. She walked five but struck out nine.

“We’ve talked about it all year how she’s just such a different pitcher than the rest of our staff,” said Mook. “It was great to see her come in and do the job against a really good softball team.”

Culp and Anderson both went 2-for-4 at the plate with a run and RBI each. Perry was 2-for-4 and scored the go-ahead run. Five other Vikings had a hit as VCSU outhit Columbia 11-8.

Columbia’s Molly Carter collected two hits and scored two runs to lead the Cougar offense. Lexi Dickerson took the loss, working 7 2/3 innings and allowing 10 hits and five runs.

Up next: Valley City State will play for the NAIA Opening Round championship at 11 a.m. Wednesday.


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