The Maryville College Scots continue to make history on the softball diamond, as they enter uncharted territory on Sunday.
Team 33 advances to the NCAA Atlanta Regional Championship after defeating the Emory University Eagles for the second time in the NCAA Tournament, 5-2, on Saturday evening.
That win marks yet another historic moment for the Scots, as they become the first-ever MC softball team to win two NCAA Regional contests.
"This is brand new – for them and for me," Head Coach Leah Kelley said. "We're just having fun. We're enjoying the moment, and we're playing with such freedom. It's really starting to show. Right now, we're just having fun, and we're just going to see how long we can stretch out this magical season."
That magical season has held some historic moments. MC has now extended the school record for wins to 31, as the Scots claimed their first-ever USA South Regular Season and Tournament crowns. Maryville's NCAA Tournament appearance is only the third in school history, as it becomes the first multi-win tournament for MC.
It's also the first time the Scots will play for a Regional Championship in Maryville College history.
"They have worked extremely hard, and their success is really starting to show," Kelley said. "Their hard work is paying off. They're building something special here. They are putting a mark on what Scots Softball is going to look like for years to come. I'm excited for our wins that we've already had and to see how we continue to play out."
Maryville will play No. 4 Berry College on Sunday at noon on Emory University's Cooper Field in Atlanta, Ga. The Scots will have to defeat the Vikings two times in order to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Berry defeated the Scots 7-1 earlier on Saturday morning in order to advance to Sunday's bout.
"Both teams – Berry and Emory – have such a long history of success, and we knew coming into today that it was going to be a tough day," Kelley said. "Berry came out and jumped on us early, but the main thing is that we didn't get down. We stayed and competed. That was our main talk after that game – 'You have options. You can lay down and end the season, or we can fight and continue to set a standard.' They did."
Maryville's Katlyn Smith continues to be stellar inside the circle. The freshman hurler tossed a complete game, as she had the shutout through six innings.
In all, Smith has allowed just 12 hits in 83 batters faced. The USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Year has tossed 18.2 innings with only four earned runs and seven strikeouts.
"She has done an outstanding job to come out here and not really let the stress of the atmosphere get to her," Kelley said. "You could easily say a freshman could be nervous in this situation, but she is so mature for her age. She really relies on her team, and we rely on her. We know that if we can put up a couple of runs, she's going to do her job in shutting down hitters. It's such a great thing to see that maturity already in a freshman pitcher on this stage."
Smith has pitched 382 pitches over the past two days, as 228 of those have gone for strikes. She holds a .597 strike percentage, as she moves to 17-2 on the season.
Maryville would strike first in the second inning, as senior Rachel Taylor drew a leadoff walk. Taylor Campbell doubled down the left-field line to score pinch runner Grace Gordon, before Christen Torres singled through the left side to plate Campbell from third for a 2-0 lead.
MC would add an extra run in the third. Christina White drew a walk, before advancing third on a stolen base and a fielder's choice. Alexus Murray's RBI single drove her in for the 3-0 Maryville lead going to the fourth.
Smith would continue to fend off the Eagles from the circle, as the Scots added two more in the bottom of that inning. Back-to-back singles by Ashton Hayden and Morgan Brewer put a pair of runners on, as a wild pitch moved them both to scoring position. Essence Strambler would score both with a two-RBI double to center, giving Maryville a 5-0 lead after four complete.
Emory would stage a seventh-inning rally, as a pair of walks and a double juiced the bags. A Sarah Flanders' single to first scored Lana Herrmann, before Sarah Katz's sacrifice fly to left plated Janelle Turnquest. Smith forced a groundout and advance to Sunday's matchup with a 5-2 win.
Maryville (31-13) saw Murray go 2-for-2 with an RBI and a walk, as Brewer was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Strambler was 1-for-4 with a pair of RBI, as Campbell was 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Torres was 1-for-2 with an RBI, as Hayden went 1-for-3 with a run. White and Gordon both scored runs, as Taylor drew a trio of walks for MC.
Emory (29-12) was led by Jenna Wilson's 2-for-4 afternoon.