SALEM, Va. --- Virginia Wesleyan University stands atop the NCAA Division III softball world for the third time in five years as the Marlins recovered from a 3-2 loss to Texas Lutheran University in the second game of the best-of-three championship series with a 9-1 triumph in the winner-take-all third game to lift the NCAA's walnut & bronze prize in Salem, Va.
The Marlins combine the 2021 championship earned at the James I. Moyer Sports Complex in Salem with the titles they collected in 2017 and 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Marlins lefty Hanna Hull was named the Most Outstanding pitcher of the national championship in Salem, while VWU catcher Jessica Goldyn earned Most Outstanding Player honors. In five appearances including four starts, Hull went 4-0 with a save and a 0.84 ERA in 25.0 innings of work. She gave up four runs (three earned) on 11 hits with eight walks and 25 strikeouts. She finishes her career with a Division III all-time best 132 victories and .917 winning percentage (132-12), sixth-highest in D-III history.
Goldyn posted a .450/.476/1.100 slash line in Salem, going 9-of-20 with eight runs scored, four RBI, and a walk. She smacked three doubles, a pair of triples, and two homeruns to lead all players with seven extra-base hits. She also stole four bases and became the Division III single-season leader in steals in the process. She finished the year 73-of-75 on basepaths. Behind the plate, Goldyn threw out 1-of-2 would-be base stealers in Salem.
Virginia Wesleyan (46-6-1) had to put in exta work on Tuesday with Texas Lutheran (36-6) claiming the first game of the day. The Bulldogs jumped on the board with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Kelly Jurden singled and moved to second when Casey Martin was hit by an Emily Seale pitch. Rebecca Snow sacrificed to move both runners up 60 feet. Skylar Ouellette grounded out to short to bring in both Jurden and Martin as heady baserunning by Martin spotted TLU with a 2-0 lead.
The Marlins bats could not get uncorked against TLU starter Ashlyn Strother, and Bulldogs took advantage by tacking on an important insurance run in the sixth. Jurden singled to lead things off and moved to second on a sacrifice by Martin. Snow grounded to third to advance her 60 feet closer. Ouellette plated Jurden with a single back up the middle.
Virginia Wesleyan finally got on the board in the seventh, but came up short with two runs. With two down, Kayla Womack singled to center with Ariana Rolle following suit. Goldyn snapped an 0-for-7 skid against TLU pitching with a blast off the right-center field fence that was just feet from tying the game. She settled for a two-run triple. Strother induced a fly out to end the contest.
Strother improved to 13-1 on the season with seven strong innings. She gave up two runs on seven hits. She walked a pair and fanned five batters. Seale took the loss for VWU, falling to 22-3 on the season. She gave up three runs on five hits. The NFCA Third Team All-American did not issue a free pass and registered two punchouts.
The momentum from Goldyn's triple carried over into game three as she went opposite field with a solo shot to right-center to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Singles by Madison Glaubke and Danielle Stewart sandwiched a fly out to right by Julia Sinnett. Katelyn Biando reached on a field's choice to short, which resulted in two separate errors by TLU's Kali Chatham as she booted the grounder and then threw wide of second base to allow Glaubke to score.
Texas Lutheran nearly responded in the top of the second. With two out, Sarah Metzer singled to third and McKay Bloxham followed with one to left. Chassety Raines, the winner of the NCAA's Elite 90 Award for the Division III Softball Championship, added another infield single to load the bases. Hull, who retired the first five batters she faced, got dangerous pinch hitter Laura Hernandez to pop out ot short to end the threat.
The Marlins broke the game open with three runs in the third. Goldyn reached on a fielding error at first and advanced to second on Glaubke's sac bunt. Sinnett drew a walk and Danielle Stewart was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Biando, who led all players in Salem with 10 RBI, drove in Goldyn and Sinnett with a single back up the middle. Two batters later, Julie Fassl singled to left to plate Stewart for a 5-0 VWU advantage.
Virginia Wesleyan again tacked on three runs in the fourth inning. Rolle and Goldyn led off with back-to-back singles and moved up to third and second, respectively, on another sac bunt by Glaubke. Sinnett also laid one down, but she reached on a fielder's choice with Rolle beating the play at the plate. After Sinnett was caught stealing second, Stewart hammered her third homer of the season over the leftfield fence to bring around both her and Goldyn.
TLU extended by contest by a half-inning with one run in the top of the fifth. Jurden singled with one out and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches by Hull. Martin walked and moved to second on a third errant toss by Hull. The two-time national player of the year and four-time ODAC Pitcher of the Year regrouped to get Snow to fly out to center, which plated Jurden and advanced Martin to third. Hull got Ouelette to pop out to second to end the inning.
The Marlins closed out their third championship with the deciding run in the bottom of the fifth. Karlee Fretz led off with a single to center. Fassl sacrificed pinch runner Krissy K'Arco to second. Following a pitching change, D'Arco advanced to third on a passed ball. Womack drew a walk to put runners on the corners, and Rolle followed with a single to right-center to score D'Arco and seal the Marlins' 9-1 victory in five innings.
Hull improved to 23-3 on the season with five full frames of work. She gave up one run on five hits. She walked two batters and struck out four to bring her career total to 1,353 strikeouts, the fourth-most in D-III history. Her 170 appearances are the most all-time and her 880.1 innings are the eighth-most in the D-III record books.
Strother started game two and took the loss, falling to 13-2 on the season.