The Judson University softball team has secured no worse than a third-place finish at the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament, but the Eagles will have to win three straight Saturday if they are to bring home the program's first national championship.
No. 4 seed Judson used another strong pitching performance from McHenry graduate Sarah Boyer to beat top-seeded Shorter University of Rome, Ga., Friday 1-0 but then lost to No. 6 seed Union College of Jackson, Tenn., 2-0 to drop into the loser's bracket.
Judson (39-18) will play Shorter again at 9 a.m. Saturday with the winner needing to beat Union twice for the NCCAA championship.
"We have to come out and be excited and realize we're still in the running for a national championship," said Judson coach Becky Pearl.
Boyer (18-6) threw a 4-hitter with 5 strikeouts and one walk in the win over Shorter (46-10). Judson scored in the top of the third when Shelby Batterton singled and was sacrificed to second by Amanda Hart. Pinch-runner Katie Kirker then went to third on a passed ball and after Deanna DeBoscherre walked, Brianna Tennyson's single scored Kirker with the game's only run.
"Sarah pitched lights out again, the defense was solid and in the inning we scored we executed like you're supposed to," Pearl said.
Union (26-20) scored the a run in the top of the first inning and added another in the fourth and Judson managed just 5 hits in the semifinal loss. Maddie Smith had a double for the Eagles. Tennyson took the loss in the circle, allowing 2 earned runs, 4 walks and a strikeout in 3 innings. Boyer finished the game and allowed just 2 hits in 4 innings.
"We didn't come out ready to play in the first inning," Pearl said. "Hopefully that won't happen again."