ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - Top seed Cal State San Marcos scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning breaking a 1-1 tie to push past No. 2 Park University 5-2 in the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round Park Bracket Tuesday (May 14) at Heritage Park.
The Cougars' starting pitcher Cortney Allen pitched her longest outing of the season holding the Pirates to four hits in the complete-game win improving to 33-5 as the team moves into the title game Wednesday at noon.
Park (31-11 overall) rallied to force extra innings with a run in the fifth but drops into an elimination game Tuesday at 6 p.m. against the winner between Marian University and Dickinson State University.
CSUSM (42-10 overall) manufactured the game's first run as Kaitlin McGinley hit a lead-off single and promptly stole second base. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, McGinley scored on a double by Alex Miller for the early 1-0 lead.
The Cougars looked to add to its lead but Pirates' starting pitcher Kaily Purtle worked around four walks in the next three innings keeping the team within one as the game turned into a pitchers' duel.
Allen cruised through the Park lineup allowing just one base runner over the opening four innings with Kyla Tatum's second-inning single into center field as the only hit.
Purtle ran into trouble in the fifth inning loading the bases with a pair of walks and a hit batter but the Pirates brought Kelli Wenberg into the game in relief who struck out Patricia Banda to end the threat.
Park carried the momentum into the bottom of the fifth taking advantage of three CSUSM errors to even the game 1-1. The Cougars entered the game as the NAIA's top defensive team posting a .980 fielding percentage.
After Tatum reached on an error to start the inning, Mallory Jansen entered as a pinch runner and stole second base. Jansen reached third on a throwing error on the play and later scored on an errant throw on a Shaya Kinsey ground ball.
Both pitchers held the opposing offenses in check heading into extra innings where the Cougars broke through the deadlock scoring four runs on six hits in the top of the ninth with a single by Miller that plated a pair followed by a two-run home run off the bat of Olivia Lucatuorto moving ahead 5-1.
The Pirates put up one run in the bottom half of the frame getting back-to-back doubles by Tatum and Allie Reynolds but the damage had been done as CSUSM moved into the title game with a 5-2 victory.
Tatum finished with two of Park's four hits going 2-for-4 leading to both of the team's runs.
Seven different CSUSM players combined to record nine hits led by Miller and Banda as they each had two hits.
Wenberg took the loss for Park falling to 8-4 on the season allowing four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of work.