The tenth-ranked Crusaders (49-11) rallied from a three-run deficit in the seventh inning to force extra innings, using the come-from-behind win to stay alive in the tournament and meet Oklahoma City tomorrow afternoon.
The loss ends the Lady Yotes (35-18) school record postseason run and gives C of I their highest national finish in program history - a tie for fifth-place.
Trailing 5-2 after six innings, WCU rallied quickly in the humid heat against C of I ace Nickayla Skinner. Caroline Walker led off the seventh with a double, scoring on a base-hit by Sarah Beckman. Jasmine Shelby tied it with one swing, smashing her seventh homer of the year to left.
C of I had a runner on in the seventh and had runners at first and second in the eighth, but didn't score. The Crusaders put the first two runners on in the ninth, but a bang-bang third-to-first double play nearly got the Yotes out of trouble. However, Russell roped a 2-2 pitch down the left field line to score pinch runner Maggie Paulk with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the ninth, back-to-back one-out infield singles by Destiny Turner and Skinner gave the Yotes life. However, a pop-up and a ground out ended the threat.
Reliever Brittany Lang got the win for WCU, allowing six hits, but just one run, in four-plus innings of relief.
The Crusaders strung together three first inning singles, taking a 1-0 lead on a Hannah Cook-Kelley RBI single. The Yotes answered in the bottom of the inning on a Turner two-out RBI single, then took the lead in the second, getting RBI singles from Julia Henrie and Briana Brace.
Beckman was 3-for-5 in the win for WCU, as the Crusaders pounded out 14 hits - the most allowed by C of I this season. Brace and Turner each went 3-for-4 for the Yotes, with Skinner, Henrie, and Katie Rowe each recording two. Skinner took the loss, despite striking out eight batters in the complete game effort.
It marked the final game for nine C of I student-athletes - including Skinner, Henrie, Kendall Pavey, Paige Gabiola, and Kaci Baldwin - all four-year members of the team.