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LAKEWOOD, N.J. - - A Taylor Gillis walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh gave the third seeded Wilmington University softball team a 3-2 win over No. 6 Franklin Pierce in the opening round of the NCAA East Regional Tournament on Thursday afternoon on the campus of Georgian Court University.
With the win, the Wildcats (35-18) will play the No. 2 seed and host Lions from Georgian Court in the winner's bracket on Friday at 11:00 a.m.
Making their sixth appearance in the NCAA East Regional Tournament, it is the first time in program history that the Wildcats won their opening game and advance into the winner's bracket.
The Wildcats trailed going into the bottom of the fourth, as Franklin Pierce (29-11) scored the game's first run. The Ravens hit a lead-off triple that hugged the right field line and then an RBI single put the visitors on top, 1-0. But starter Kylee Gunkel buckled down and only allowed the one run in the inning.
The Wildcats answered right back in the bottom of the fourth, scoring on two-out magic. With two outs and no one on, Gabbie Saucedo sparked a rally with a double inside the third base bag. Haley Downin followed with a double in the left-center field gap, tying the game, 1-1.
The Wildcats tried taking the lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Sara Miller doubled to start the inning. But she was gunned down at the plate trying to score on a fly ball, ending the inning still knotted, 1-1.
Lauren Lopez started a one-out rally in the sixth inning that led to the Wildcats taking the lead. Kiersten Comer was hit by a pitch and then Gabbie Saucedo was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Haley Downing hit one down the third base line which was fielded. The third baseman stepped on the bag at third for one out, but took the force play away from home plate. Pinch runner Danielle Hess slid safely home as the throw was high to take a 2-1 lead.
The Ravens wouldn't go quietly though, as they led off the innings with another triple that landed just inside the right field line. Gunkel got one out, but then a single scored the run. But the Wildcats were able to clear the bases as the runner tried to stretch the single into a double and Taylor Gillis gunned her down on a close play at second for the second out.
Sara Miller stepped in to start the seventh and nearly ended it herself, roping a ball off the top of the fence in left center for a lead-off double. Taylor Stewart beat out an infield single to shortstop to put runners on first and third and then Taylor Gillis lined the first pitch she saw into left to score the game-winning run, 3-2.
Kylee Gunkel went the distance to improve to 18-11 on the year, striking out eight batters while allowing two runs on seven hits. Taylor Gillis and Sara Miller had two hits each, with Haley Downin leading the way with two RBI.