GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - - With their backs against the wall the Wilmington University softball team came out swinging on Friday afternoon and won two games to stay alive in the 2017 NCAA Division II East Regional I Tournament, 9-3, against New Haven and, 12-3, against Mercy at Ficke Field on the campus of Adelphi University.
With the wins, the Wildcats (36-20) advance to East Regional Championship Saturday for the first time in program history. They have to defeat top seed and host Adelphi twice to advance to the Super Regional series.
Trailing 3-2 after three innings of play against New Haven (30-16), the Wildcats took the lead for good with a three-run fourth inning.
With two our and Mirabella Klebart on first, Rosa'Lynn Burton spun one towards left and once it hit the turf, the ball took off away from the left fielder, allowing Klebart to come all the way home to tie the game. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases and Kaitlyn Slater laced a two-out, two-run single to left for the 5-3 lead.
Starter Caitlyn Whiteside shut the Chargers down in order in the fourth and left two runners on in the fifth before the offense gave her some breathing room. Slater made a run-saving diving play to her left, throwing the batter out at first from her knees to end the fifth.
Whitney DeMora bunted in Burton in the sixth before Meghan Brown cleared the bases with a three-run triple that reached the fence in right center. Whiteside then shut the Chargers down in the sixth and left a runner on first base to end the game.
The bats didn't stop connecting in the Wildcats' next elimination game either, as they turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead with their second at-bat against Mercy (33-15).
With two outs and runners on second and third, Becca Stanley delivered a two-run double to left center for the 2-1 lead. Burton followed with an RBI triple to left center before Jazmeen Llamas laced one through the right side and all the way to the fence to give the Wildcats the 4-1 lead.
The Mavericks inched closer with a run the second, but Meghan Brown erased that in the top of the third inning with a two-run blast to left field. Brown's third homer of the year gave the Wildcats a 6-2 lead.
Mercy again tried to inch closer in the fourth, hitting a two-out solo homer to center, but the Wildcats once again answered the call in the top of the fifth. Slater and Colby Wyatt led off the inning with back-to-back singles before Meghan Brown doubled to right center to score Slater. Two errors on one play allowed Wyatt to score and Stanley put it out of reach with her fifth blast of the year, bringing in three runs to put the Wildcats ahead 11-3. DeMora put the icing on the cake with a double off the wall in left, scoring Llamas for the nine-run lead.
Reliever Brooklyn Lachette left a leadoff double on third base in the bottom of the fifth, bringing the eight-run mercy rule into effect, 12-3.
Burton went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and four stolen bases against New Haven before adding a 1-for-3 game against Mercy. Brown went 1-for-4 with three RBI against UNH before going 2-for-2 with three RBI and three runs scored in the nightcap. Stanley went 2-for-3 with five RBI and two runs scored against Mercy. Klebart hit her third homer of the season with a solo shot against New Haven.
Caitlyn Whiteside picked up the wins in each game, improving to 19-10 on the year and tying the program's single season mark for wins. She tied Kim Lawrence (2007) and Chelsea Botsch's (2015) mark for wins in a single season.
The 36 wins also sets a new mark for team wins in a single season. Both the 2013 and 2015 teams won 34 games.
Saturday's East Regional I Tournament Championship is scheduled to start at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, with the if necessary game to be played after the conclusion of the first contest.