CORTLAND, NY – The Heidelberg University softball team relentlessly attacked host Cortland State in Game 3 of the NCAA Regional Tournament. Scoring early and often, the Student Princes earned an 8-0 mercy-rule victory – which propelled the team into Sunday's regional championship.
Heidelberg (32-8) will play DeSales University, who defeated Cortland in Game 5 of the tournament.
"We came out confident today," said Heidelberg head coach Betsy Hada. "It doesn't matter who our opponent is, we come out knowing that we have to play our game and they have to beat us ... The girls proved that today."
Singles by Kyleah Brey and Haylee Patel put two on with one out in the second. Randi Kelsey sent a liner back to the mound, which was snared by Cortland starter Alexandrea Flint. Flint fired to first to try to double up Patel, but her throw was high. The error allowed pinch runner Kendell Queen to move to third. After a walk to Taylor Hicks, Renee Lovett served a single to left center, scoring a pair. The ball was mishandled in the outfield, which allowed an additional run to come in.
"I walked up to the plate and slowed my heart rate down and tried not to think," said Lovett, who was 3-for-4. "I knew that if I put the ball in play, good things were going to happen.
Up 3-0, Heidelberg added an unearned run in the third. Abbey McKee singled up the middle and reached second on a bobbled throw on a fielder's choice. Pinch runner Lisa Simmons scored after a sacrifice and a groundout.
The Student Princes added a pair in the top of the fourth. Lovett and Smego singled with one out. Mikaela Mitsch singled off the base of the wall in right, scoring Lovett. With two outs, Brey singled to left, plating Smego.
In the fifth, Heidelberg tacked on two more in the fifth, to take an 8-0 lead. Smego hit an RBI fielder's choice to third. On the play, Kelsey slid in headfirst to the plate ahead of the throw. Later, McKee sent a single up the middle, plating Hicks.
Atterholt allowed a leadoff double, but shut the door as the Student Princes emerged with a mercy-rule victory. She threw all five innings, giving up no runs on one walk and four hits.
"I tried to keep the ball low and stayed ahead of the hitters," said Atterholt. "That's what made the difference."
The loss was just Cortland's second in their last 17 games.
Seven Heidelberg players contributed hits and seven scored runs in the win.
"Today, everybody showed up, 1-through-9," said Hada. "Everyone got the job done, whether it was a sacrifice bunt or an RBI hit."
Though originally scheduled for noon, Sunday's game starts at 10 a.m. because of the threat of rain. If Heidelberg falls in the first game, the winner-take-all Game 7 will follow shortly. The Cortland Regional champion will advance to face the Alfred Regional champion in a best-of-three super-regional next weekend.
This story has been edited to correctly identify the opponent and new start time.