BY RICKY POLLITT
The Salisbury and Christopher Newport rivalry has become one of the most intense showdowns in all of Division III over the past several years.
No matter the sport, the Sea Gulls and Captains are almost guaranteed to put on a good game, and that was once again the case at the SU softball field on Friday morning.
Competing for the right to go to the Capital Athletic Conference championship, Salisbury (33-4) took down CNU (33-6) after a six-run fifth inning to defeat the Captains 7-3.
Senior Molly Simpson led the way for the Gulls, notching her 14th homerun of the season in the bottom of the third – the most by any player in D3.
“I just stand in there and get ready to hit the ball, and somehow it just ends up going over,” Simpson said.
The Captains got on the board first after senior outfielder Meagan Jones stole three bases to make it 1-0 in the second inning.
After going down two outs in the third, Salisbury answered with Simpson’s homerun.
Both squads were held scoreless in the fourth inning, with strong pitching from SU’s Annah Brittingham and CNU’s Hannah Marshall. Entering the fifth, neither had allowed more than two hits and had combined for seven strikeouts.
“I just focus on my spins and focus on making the ball move,” Brittingham said. “I’ve got my defense behind me, and they keep me in the game.”
What had started as a quiet day for both team’s hitters quickly changed as the fifth inning began.
CNU struck first with senior outfielder Scoop Simon driving in two runs with a double to centerfield. Once Simon was tagged out for the final run of the inning, the Captains held a 3-1 led over the Gulls.
“It’s never a dull game, we know it’s never going to be easy. They score, we score,” Simpson said. “We’re Sea Gulls, we flock together and we put the pedal to the medal.”
Salisbury came out in the fifth hitting that pedal hard. After Annie Pietanza and Caitlin Lake were able to get on base for SU, Simpson recorded her second hit of the day on a single to the outfield putting up two more runs to tie the game at three.
Fellow senior Paige Knussman recorded a single of her own before Brittingham nailed a triple to the fence sending in two more runs. The hit was followed by a home run from shortstop Kim Dorsey to give Salisbury a four run lead over CNU.
“Annie and Caitlin getting us started, and the trio of our upper classmen putting the ball in play really helped us out there,” Sea Gulls head coach Margie Knight said.
The Salisbury defense sealed the win for the Gulls only allowing one more hit in the final two innings putting the Captains daily total at two.
Along with seven runs, the Sea Gulls also finished with nine hits and seven RBIs to advance them to the CAC championship on Saturday.
Christopher Newport, Frostburg and Mary Washington will battle it out to find out who will face the Gulls in the championship game tomorrow at 10 a.m.
“Any time you can rest it’s great. The teams have to use their pitchers at least one more time today, and with Frostburg and Mary Washington playing really well we’re not going to underestimate anyone,” Knight said.