LEXINGTON, Ky. – Defiance moved within one win of its second consecutive HCAC Tournament championship, after defeating Bluffton and Transylvania in the opening two rounds of the conference tournament. The Jackets won the first game, 12-4, before holding on for a 5-4 victory in game two.
Trailing 4-1 after four innings in the opening game against Bluffton, DC's offense came to life with a six-run fifth frame. Kayla Crager and Stephanie Lieto started the fireworks, hitting back-to-back home runs to pull the Jackets within one, 4-3. However, the Defiance was just getting started, as it loaded the bases with one out.
Marah Robinson would give DC back the lead one out later, clearing the bases with a double to the gap in left center. Mallory Faling closed out the scoring in the frame, driving in her fellow sophomore with a single up the middle to put the Jackets out in front, 7-4.
That would be all the run support that the Defiance pitching staff would need, as Kelly Schnipke threw three shutout innings in relief to close out the victory. However, the DC offense was not ready to quit producing, as it poured on five more runs over the final two frames.
Aarika Davis got things going for the Jackets in the sixth, scoring Lieto with a single to center field. Melanie Bushman followed that with a sacrifice fly to plate Allison Ramsay, before Robinson drove in her fourth run of the contest with a single up the middle to increase DC's lead to six, 10-4.
Lieto and Ramsay hit consecutive RBI-doubles in the seventh to round out the scoring on the day, as Defiance reached the 10-run mark for the sixth time this season with 12 runs on the game.
The Jackets racked up 13 hits in the contest, as five players tallied two hits. Robinson led the team with four RBI, while Lieto had a team-high three runs to go along with her two runs driven in.
Justine Johnston recorded the victory for DC, reaching 15 wins for the third time in her career.
Defiance's offense wasted no time getting on the board in the second game of the day, scoring twice in the opening inning of the contest. Bushman gave the Jackets an early lead with a single up the middle to score Davis, before Robinson drove in Stucke with a single to left field that put DC up 2-0.
Transylvania tied the game in the bottom of the second, as Katelyn Kallenborn hit a two-run home run. However, Bushman helped Defiance answer in the third with a solo shot to left , before Amanda Auzins's two-run blast in the fourth pushed the Jackets' lead to three, 5-2.
The Pioneers drew within one, 5-4, with two runs in the sixth, but Schnipke would close the door with a 1-2-3 seventh to record her second save of the day.
DC had nine hits on the day, led by Bushman and Lieto, who had two hits apiece. Johnston tallied her second victory of the afternoon, after giving up just two runs in her 25th start of the season. The senior pitcher improves to 16-9 on the season.
Defiance will be back in action tomorrow, May 2, when it faces the winner of the Bluffton/Transylvania matchup in the HCAC title game. The Jackets will go for their second-straight conference tournament title, when the championship game begins at 1:00 p.m.