LYNCHBURG, VA – Behind starting pitcher Ciara Luna, the Cardinals needed only two runs in the third inning to prevail over the Illinois State Redbirds, 2-1.
Illinois State struck first in the opening frame after three hits, including an RBI single pushed a run across for the first run of the championship round for the Redbirds. Sarah Finck, who would pitch all seven innings in the circle for ISU, gave up only four hits and two runs for a valiant effort. Allison Spence and Riley Strandgard turned in the best performances at the plate, combining for three hits and the Redbird’s only RBI.
A lead-off walk to start the third inning was just the spark the Cardinals needed to put themselves back in contention. Two straight singles carried both Ashley McDowell and Shelby Hughtson across home plate, giving Lamar the 2-1 advantage.
Now pitching with a lead, Ciara Luna wasn’t about to let the semi-finals out of her sight. Luna struck out five, walked one and gave up just one run in her seven innings of work, picking up her 18th win of the year and advancing Lamar to the coveted semi-final round.
Lamar will await the winner of Kennesaw State and Weber State who will go toe-to-toe at 1:30 p.m. ET Monday. Meanwhile, Illinois State will drop down to the loser’s bracket of the double-elim format and face host Liberty later Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.