SALEM, Va. – Top-seeded Virginia Wesleyan scored a run and had two runners on in the bottom of the seventh before a pop up to the shortstop ended the ball game as the Bridgewater Eagles softball team earned a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Marlins to move on to championship round play at the 2012 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) softball championships.
Bridgewater got on the board with a single run in the first to take an early 1-0 lead over the Marlins, a lead they would never surrender.
Senior Hillary Rees led off the game with a single to left field and advanced to second on a wild pitch to put a runner in scoring position with no outs.
Sophomore Kasey Anderson followed the Rees single with one of her own and advanced to second on a throwing error from the pitcher, which allowed Rees to score to put the Eagles on top by a 1-0 score.
Starting pitcher Heather Jenkins put the Marlins down in order in the first and second before the Eagles tacked another run on the board in the top of the third.
Rees led off the inning with a walk and was pushed to third on back-to-back groundouts to put the senior at third base with two outs. Junior Melanie Lamb put the second run on the board when she stroked a 1-0 pitch to left field for a double, plating Rees to build the Bridgewater advantage to 2-0.
Virginia Wesleyan threatened in the third with a pair of runners, but Jenkins worked her way out of the jam to take a 2-0 lead into the fourth.
After a scoreless frame for the Eagles bats, the Marlins cut the Bridgewater lead in half in the home half of the fourth.
The Marlins recorded back-to-back walks to open the frame but a fly-out to centerfield pushed the runners to the corners with one away. Catcher Heather Bishop drove in the first Marlins run of the game on a groundout to cut the Bridgewater advantage to 2-1 after four complete.
Bridgewater responded with a single run in the top of the fifth to push its lead back to two runs at a 3-1 tally.
Following a fly out to open the fifth, Rees singled up the middle and swiped second to put a runner in scoring position for Anderson.
The sophomore dribbled a pitch back to the pitcher and footed out the throw, while Rees was moved to third to put runners at the corners with one away.
Senior Sarah Heretick pushed in the third run on a groundout, scoring Rees, to build the Eagles lead to 3-1 after four-and-a-half.
Virginia Wesleyan left runners on in the fifth and sixth but couldn't tag another run on Jenkins as the game moved to the seventh.
Bridgewater went down in order in the top of the frame to keep the score 3-1 heading to the final half of the inning.
After a groundout to open the inning, pinch hitter Lindsey Izana reached on an error and was replaced by Andrea Shannon on the basepaths with one down.
Chelsea Henline singled to third to put runners at first and second before a Tori Higginbotham single up the middle cut the Bridgewater lead to a run at a 3-2 tally.
Higginbotham swiped second to put Jenkins in a seventh-inning jam.
Jenkins worked the count to 3-2 before striking out Kelly Keys for the pivotal second out of the inning.
Virginia Wesleyan third baseman Jaclyn Quinn worked a 3-2 count with Jenkins before the junior hurler forced a pop up to Rees at shortstop to end the ball game, handing the Eagles a thrilling 3-2 victory.
Rees and Anderson paced the way for the Eagles offensively with the senior lead-off hitter going 2-for-3 with three runs scored. Anderson paced the offense with a 3-for-4 effort and a pair of stolen bases.
Jenkins was again outstanding in the circle, going the distance to earn her 17th win of the year. The junior allowed two runs on five hits and struck out three to record the victory.
Virginia Wesleyan was paced offensively by a 2-for-2 effort from Henline.
Kristina Karagiorgis picked up the loss –her fourth of the year – by allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings of work.
Bridgewater moves on the face Roanoke on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Moyer Complex in the championship round of the ODAC tournament. The Eagles must win two games on Sunday to claim the program's first ODAC title.