ALMA, Michigan -- No strangers to tense postseason games, the No. 3 seed Heidelberg University softball team rallied for a 4-2 win over No. 2 Wittenberg University in the opening game of the NCAA Regional Tournament at Alma College. The Student Princes trailed 2-0 through six innings, but broke through with four runs in the seventh.
With the win, Heidelberg (29-11) advances to face the Alma/Benedictine winner. Wittenberg falls to 32-8-1.
Wittenberg took the lead in the second. Missy Lee sent a two-out single to right center that scored Charlee Clark for the game's first run. The Tigers added another on an RBI groundout by Casey Hobbs in the third.
Heidelberg had base runners on in each inning -- including two baserunners five times -- but couldn't find the key hit against Wittenberg starter Chelsea Zang (18-6) until the final inning.
In the seventh, Haylee Patel singled, Lisa Simmons walked and Taylor Hicks reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. Marissa Smego followed with an RBI-single to center, plating Patel. After a 5-2-3 double play, Kayla Zachrich sent a squibber to second that was mishandled -- allowing Simmons to score the game tying run. Abbey McKee sent a double that rolled to the wall in left, plating Hicks and Zachrich. All totalled, Heidelberg sent nine to the plate -- pounding three hits with two errors -- and took a 4-2 lead.
Despite the early runs, Erin Chapman held the Tigers at bay. Wittenberg loaded up the bases in the sixth, but she wriggled out of the jam. Chapman (14-5) went the distance, allowing two runs on eight hits. She fanned four.
McKee and Hicks each had two hits for the Student Princes.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
Heidelberg hasn't been shutout since a March 31, 2014 1-0 loss at Muskingum.
The Student Princes remain a perfect 4-0 in NCAA Regional action in program history.
Head coach Betsy Hada on the win: "With our team, it doesn't matter who is called upon, someone is going to step up and make the plays. We showed that today."
Sophomore Abbey McKee on the clutch hit: "I knew [Zang] was pitching me in and out, almost in a pattern. I wanted to hold the rope for my teammates."
Junior Erin Chapman on her solid pitching performance: "[Mitsch] called a great game behind the plate and I knew the defense was there to back me up."
The Student Princes return to action on Saturday, where they will face the winner of the Benedictine-Alma game. The 11 a.m. game is, in essence, the winners bracket championship. The winner advances to Sunday's championship game and the loser returns for the third game on Saturday. Live stats and live video will be available.