SALEM, Va. – In the first day of the Salem NCAA Regional, the top-seeded Salisbury University softball team defeated eighth-seeded Penn State University-Altoona, 5-1, to advance to Friday's winners' bracket where the Sea Gulls will face either Roanoke College or Christopher Newport University at 2 p.m.
Salisbury (36-2) earned two runs early on as the Sea Gulls loaded the bases in the first inning with two outs. A soft liner just over the head of second baseman Brittany Smith, by freshman Katie Sebbane, brought seniors Michelle Gravdahl and Hannah Mills home for the 2-0 lead.
Heading into the top of the third, sophomore pitcher Rachel Johnson had five strikeouts and collected one more before Alamaria Miller reached base on a Sea Gull error. Johnson stranded Miller on first as Lauren Bove went down swinging.
The Sea Gulls put two additional runs on the board in the third and fourth inning. Mills led off the third with a single up the middle and then touched home off classmate Lindsay McCabe's line drive to center field. Junior Angelia McDowell led off the bottom of the fourth with a single before moving to third off two consecutive sacrifice bunts. McDowell put up SU's fourth run of the contest off Gravdahl's single to center field.
Penn St.-Altoona (27-11) would get its first hit of the contest in the fourth but would not plate a run until the sixth inning.
In the sixth, a Sea Gull throwing error allowed Bove to make her way to third base with one out. Two batters later, she scored off Smith's single to center field to end the possibility of a shutout, 4-1, before SU's defense marooned two Lion runners as senior second baseman Carly Read collected a ground ball, dishing it off to junior first baseman Harley Hill for the third out.
The final run of the game would come off Mills' bat as Salisbury went on to win 5-1. Mills went 3-for-3 on the day with two runs scored and one RBI.
Junior pitcher Kathryn Larson worked the top of the seventh, retiring the side, fanning two. Johnson finished the day with eight strikeouts while scattering three hits.
Salisbury will face the winner of the 2 p.m., contest between No. 4 Roanoke and No. 5 Christopher Newport. The Sea Gulls will take to the field at 2 p.m., on Friday.