SALEM, Va. – A dominating pitching performance and a pair of clutch hits have the top-ranked UAH Chargers a win away from a national title. Behind the one-two punch of freshman hurler Whitney Toler and senior closer Alex Lewis, the Chargers beat No. 5 Midwestern State 2-0 in the semifinal game of the NCAA Division II Softball World Series on Sunday afternoon.
UAH (48-5-1) will face West Region champion California-San Diego (44-13) national championship game on Monday at 11 a.m. at the James I. Moyer Complex. The game will be televised on CBS Sports TV. On Comcast, it's listed at channel 743 and 393 (HD). DirectTV channel 613, Dish Network channel 152 and Knology channel 195.
It will be the second trip to the finals for the Chargers in three years and fourth overall. In the 2009, UAH fell to Lock Haven in the championship game. The Chargers made it to the semifinals in their first trip in 1999 and went 1-2 in 2001.
Toler (21-2) was outstanding, holding the Mustangs to only three hits. She had four strikeouts and didn't have a walk. She worked five innings then handed the ball to the "Dragon" (Lewis) with a runner aboard and nobody out in the sixth inning. She struck out the first batter she faced, then got the next one to ground out into a well executed double-play by third baseman Abby MacKay and second-baseman Kellie Johnson to end the inning. Lewis sat the Mustangs down in order in the seventh to earn her 15th save of the season.
With the dominance in the circle, the Chargers didn't need much offense. In the bottom of the first inning, slugger Stephanie Needham smashed her third home run of the Series over the left field wall. It was her sixth consecutive hit after going 5-for-5 in the previous game against North Georgia.
Shortstop Kat Whitlock added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth for the Chargers lacing a two-out RBI single into right field. The Chargers nearly posted another run when MacKay doubled to center field. But, pinch runner Hannah Hogan was cut down the at the plate trying to score from first base.
MacKay had two of the Chargers' eight hits. Needham's bomb made her 6-for-11 with three home runs and four RBI for the tournament. With still a bit of swelling around her right eye after taking a foul ball to the face on Friday, Kellie Johnson picked up her third hit of the series.