The lower seeds reigned victorious on the first day of the Henderson bracket of the NAIA Softball World Series Opening Round. First the no. 3 seeded Columbia (Mo.) College Cougars bested no. 2 Madonna (Mich.) University 3-0 before no. 4 Friends (Kan.) University upset top-seeded Freed-Hardeman 3-2 in extra innings.
Friends (31-19) plated two runs in the top of the first inning before being held scoreless until a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning vaulted the Falcons to victory.
After a leadoff walk and hit-by-pitch put two runners on base, Carolyn Dallimore laced a double into right-center field to plate both Aleigha Gale and Meghan Low.
Freed-Hardeman (48-4) had a similar situation with Kennedy Harris drawing a leadoff walk before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. After swiping third, an errant throw allowed Harris to tap home.
Friends’ Laila Spracklen (19-8) and FHU’s Morgan Crawford (18-1) traded scoreless blows until the Lady Lions tied up matters in the bottom of the seventh. After Crawford opened the frame with a walk her pinch runner, Natalie Gilmore, stole second. A sacrifice bunt moved Gilmore to third base, allowing Annalise Jarnagin to sky a sacrifice fly to drive her in.
A single, a walk, and a fielder’s choice in which the lead runner reached her base safely saw the Falcons load the bases with no outs. A fielder’s choice retired the first out at home before Spracklin drove in her own winning run, plating Gale. The damage was mitigated when the Lady Lions had a strong throw to catch a runner taking too big of a turn. FHU would go scoreless in the bottom to seal the upset for Friends.
The Falcons were led by Taylor Witter’s 2-for-3 day at the plate, joining Dallimore in the hit column. FHU’s Cassie Hayes and Caitlin Mitchell’s pinch-hit base knock were the Lady Lions’ output.
The bracket moves into day two with Columbia and Friends squaring off for a spot in the regional final at 11 a.m. CDT. Freed-Hardeman and Madonna will play in the bracket’s first elimination game at 2 p.m. CDT with the winner earning the right to play the loser of the day’s first game to seal the bracket’s final day.