SALEM, Va. --- Hanna Hull retired 16 of the last 17 batters she faced and Karlee Fretz blasted a three-run first-inning homer to propel Virginia Wesleyan University to a 4-2 victory over Texas Lutheran University in the first game of the best-of-three championship series at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship in Salem, Va.
Following Monday afternoon's triumph, Virginia Wesleyan (45-5-1) is now one win shy of claiming its third Division III softball title since 2017. Both the Marlins and Texas Lutheran (35-5) return to the James I. Moyer Sports Complex for at least one game at 11:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday. If the Bulldogs win that contest, a winner-take-all third game of the series will be played at 1:30 p.m. ET or 45 minutes after the conlusion of the previous contest, whichever is later.
Hull, who continues to add to her Division III all-time career wins record, moved to 22-3 on the season with a complete game effort for her 131st career triumph. She gave up two runs on two hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts. Hull closed the game by retiring 16 of the last 17 batters she faced including a run of 12 straight outs.
Her Marlins teammates helped stake her to an early lead with all four runs coming in the bottom of the first inning. With one down, Madison Glaubke hammered a triple off the centerfield fence. A swinging bunt by Julia Sinnett scored Glaubke with Sinnett moved to second with the scoop-toss by TLU pitcher Sydney Ouellette eluding catcher Sarah Metzer at the plate. Danielle Stewart took up position at first base after being hit by a pitch and then two batters later, Karlee Fretz ripped a three-run homer down the leftfield line to put VWU ahead, 4-0. That was Fretz's fifth long-fly of the season.
Texas Lutheran responded by cutting the Marlins lead in half in the top of the second. Metzer singled with one down to put a runner on base for Haley Padilla, one of four Bulldogs to already homer in Salem. Padilla added a second Salem-smash to her championship experience as she ran into a Hull fastball and sent it beyond the leftfield fence for her 12th bomb of the season.
Padilla's homer marked the final scoring play of the game. Hull set down the next 12 Bulldogs she faced and Virginia Wesleyan left seven runners on-base including a pair of bases loaded situations in the second and fifth frames.
Ouellette took the loss for TLU, falling to 16-3 after six solid innings. She gave up four runs while scattering seven hits. She walked a pair and fanned one.