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LAKEWOOD, N.J. - - Renamarie Rocha and Kylee Gunkel cooled the bats of the hard-hitting Georgian Court Lions in the winner's bracket of the NCAA Division II East Region 2 Tournament on Friday, winning, 2-1, to advance to the championship round on Saturday on the campus of Georgian Court.
The Wildcats (36-18) scored both runs in the bottom of the fifth inning before the Lions (39-14) threatened in the sixth, scoring just one run while leaving the bases loaded. With the win, the Wildcats are one win away from advancing to the NCAA Division II East Super Regional next weekend.
Renamarie Rocha (Garden Grove, Calif./Santiago) was keeping the Lions off-balance in the early going, being able to get out of an early third-inning bases loaded jam to keep the game scoreless. The Wildcats' offense didn't get much going in the home half of the innings either however, as the game sailed into the fourth inning. Rocha set the Lions down in order in the top of the inning and the Wildcats left a two-out double by Sara Miller on base.
The Lions led off the fifth with an infield single, but Rocha picked up a strikeout and back-to-back grounders to leave the runner at third to keep the game scoreless.
Haley Downin started the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single. Kiersten Comer moved her up to second with a bunt and then the Lions let Arianna Millan on by dropping a fly ball in left. Now with two outs, Lexi Moore dropped on right on the third base line, throwing chalk into the air as Downin hustled around third to score the game's first run.
Tristyn Stewart slapped one to third and the throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag. Danielle Hess never stopped running from second, sliding in safely at the plate to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
The Lions threatened again in the sixth, as miscommunication at second extended the inning. With one out and a runner on first, Rocha fielded a chopper back to the circle and threw to second but the out wasn't recorded as neither fielder found the second base bag. A hit by pitch then loaded the bases with only one out.
Kylee Gunkel came on to extinguish the fire and did just that. After allowing a walk to force in a run, she buckled down and picked up back-to-back swinging strikeouts to get out of the jam and keep the Wildcats in front, 2-1.
Gunkel then came back out in the seventh and set the Lions down in order, fielding a comebacker for the final out of the game and send the Wildcats into the Championship on Saturday.
Taylor Gillis, Lexi Moore, Sara Miller, and Haley Downin accounted for the Wildcats' four hits. Rocha improved to 13-2 on the year with the win, striking out three while allowing a run on four hits and three walks. Gunkel earned her first career save.
Saturday's Championship is set to begin at 11:00 a.m.