SALEM, Va. - Second-seeded Minnesota State Mankato took advantage of two key Armstrong State University misplays in a five-run fifth inning to take an 8-4 victory in the NCAA DII Championships on Friday afternoon at the James I. Moyer Complex in Salem, Va.
The Pirates (37-13) will now face the winner of ifth-seeded Molloy and eighth-seeded Humboldt State at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday in an elimination contest. Minnesota State Mankato (61-7) will now need to win just one more game on Saturday to advance to the National Championship series.
Minnesota State Mankato scored a single run in the top of the first on an error, but sophomore Macy Coleman tied things up for the Pirates with a solo home run leading off the third inning, making the score 1-1. That home run was the school-record 82nd of the season for the Pirates, breaking the previous record of 81 set during the 2014 season.
The fifth inning then was the difference as the Mavericks loaded the bases with one out on a bloop single down the left field line by Alyssa Rickels, a grounder to short that was thrown into right field by Coleman trying to get a force at second, then a bloop single to center field by Jess Meidl. Senior Jane Trzaska relieved starter Tori Bates and gave up a bloop single to center field by Ashley Thell that scored one run, then a ground ball to third was thrown into the back of the runner coming home, allowing two runs to score. Armstrong State got a force out at home for the second out of the inning, but Carly Esselman drilled a two-RBI double to left to cap the scoring in the five-run frame.
The Pirates closed the gap to two runs in the sixth inning on junior Katie Collins' three-run home run to left field, but Minnesota State added two insurance runs on back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Buhmann and Esselman in the top of the seventh. Armstrong State got two runners on with two out in the seventh but a pop-up to the catcher by freshman Natalie Corbin ended the contest.
DII National Player of the Year Coley Reis notched the win for the Mavericks, giving up four hits and four runs in seven innings, walking one while striking out 10 to improve to 38-3 on the season. Bates (6-2) took the loss, giving up six hits and four runs - one earned - in 4 1/3 innings of work, striking out two.
Collins' three-run home run led the Pirates offensively, while Esselman went 3-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Mavericks.