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HU earns bid to NAIA Nationals as tourney runner-up

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The 2nd-seeded HU softball team (36-17) came within one win of claiming the Crossroads League Tournament title Saturday afternoon. After going 2-0 on opening day, the Foresters knocked-off top-seeded Marian Friday afternoon at Marian to land a spot in Saturday’s championship game where they faced the Knights again.

MU (43-9) had to work their way out of the consolation bracket to get into the championship game and it was sweet revenge for the Knights as they blanked HU 5-0 to force a second game where they handed HU a 6-3 decision to claim the tournament title.

Despite the disappointment of Saturday’s results, Coach Gower and crew still had plenty to celebrate as they were awarded the league’s second automatic bid to the 2016 NAIA National Championships as the tourney runner-up. It will be the second time in program history the Foresters have qualified for NAIA nationals.

The 2016 Softball National Championship Opening Round will be played May 16-18 and features 10 four-team, double elimination tournaments. The 40 qualifiers and pairings for the National Championship Opening Round will be announced May 10. 

HU’s bats were quiet in game one as the Foresters managed only two hits to be held scoreless for just the fourth time this season. Marian, on the other hand, hammered out 13 hits to the tune of five runs, four of which came in the first two frames, to cruise to the win.  

Ariel Sheets was charged with the loss. The senior hurler tossed the first five frames and gave up nine hits and four runs.

A chance to regroup between games seemed just what HU needed as they struck first in game two. With bases loaded, Marty Harris worked a base on balls to walk in a run for the early 1-0 advantage.

Unfortunately, it was a short-lived lead as Marian unleashed for six hits in the second to touch home five times. They would go on to tack on another run in the fourth while Huntington’s bats went quiet again.

But as has been the case all season, HU refused to go down without a fight. Heading into the seventh down 6-1, the Foresters made one final push. Natalie McGuire started the rally with a single up the middle and eventually came around to score on a throwing error. Several batters later, Emily O’Leary delivered an RBI-infield single to cut the lead in half at 6-3 but the Foresters would get no closer as Breena Smith worked the final two outs to pick up her second win of the day.

Emily Puterbaugh took the loss for HU. She went the distance, giving up 12 hits and six runs while striking out three for her fifth loss of the season.

For their effort throughout the tourney, Puterbaugh, Katie DePew, O'Leary and Sheets were named to the Crossroads League All-Tournament Team.  

The Huntington University Foresters compete in 17 intercollegiate sports for men and women. In the past decade, Huntington has produced 39 NAIA All-America honors and 234 All-America Scholar Athlete honors. Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S. News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest.