Garden pitches Lewis University to GLVC tournament title

Delaney Garden has never been an overpowering pitcher.

But she's always been effective, and the little lefty from Jacobs was at it again this past weekend in East Peoria, both on the mound and with her bat.

The 5-foot-3 Garden, who once struck out 20 batters in a high school game, tossed a 6-hitter with 6 strikeouts and no walks to lead Lewis University's softball team to a 5-2 upset win over top-seeded Indianapolis in the championship game of the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament.

Garden, a sophomore at Lewis, also had an RBI double in the game as the Flyers won their first GLVC championship for coach Becky Pearl, now in her ninth season at the helm, and the 11th in program history. Pearl spent 10 seasons as the head coach at Judson University in Elgin before landing the Lewis job.

"Delaney has really continued to grow as a pitcher," Pearl said of Garden, an all-GLVC selection this season who is now 16-7 with a 1.81 ERA. "She shows great command with her pitches and she keeps an even keel, which helps her team stay collected She continues to work to improve her craft."

Garden is also the team's leading hitter with a .370 average. She has started all 54 games for the 36-18 Flyers, who also have West Aurora product Gabi Nilles hitting .313. Nilles had the game-winning 2-run single in Sunday's triumph over Indy.

Fourth-seeded Lewis will now play No. 5 Illinois-Springfield (33-22) on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional in Indianapolis. No. 1 Indy (50-8) takes on No. 8 Hillsdale (35-19) at 10 a.m. in the double elimination tournament. Lewis split a doubleheader with UIS in early April.

"We are just so excited for this opportunity," Pearl said. "Our goal was 'ring in spring' and this is what we have fought for and worked for and it's so cool to see all their hard work pay off.

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