(Story courtesy of Texas Lutheran University athletics)
TYLER, Texas -- Kayla Oliveira won her 16th game in the circle and belted a two-run homer to help Texas Lutheran's cause as the Bulldogs opened the 2019 NCAA Division III Softball Championship Finals with a 7-1 victory Thursday over Williams (Mass.).
Eighth-ranked TLU improved to 36-8 overall. Fourth-ranked Williams dropped to 38-6.
Williams, the championship's No. 5 seed, plays tournament No. 1 seed St. Thomas (Minn.) at 11 a.m. Friday in the first elimination game of the double-elimination tournament.
TLU, the No. 4 seed, faces No. 8 seed Eastern Connecticut State in a winner's bracket game set for a 7 p.m. start Friday at Suddenlink Field.
The Warriors were 2-1 upset winners over St. Thomas in the tournament's opening game.
Against the Ephs, TLU's Oliveira pounded a 1-1 pitch over the left-field wall in the fourth inning to give the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead.
TLU already was staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to third baseman Kassie Maddox. The senior delivered an RBI single in the second and an RBI sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Junior first baseman Madisyn Cates started the scoring rallies in the second and the fourth with doubles. Cates went 4-for-4 with two runs scored.
Oliveira worked out of jams in the first two innings and gave her offense time to erupt. The Bulldogs scored seven runs on 12 hits and four extra-base hits, including home runs by Oliveira and Rebecca Snow.
Snow gave the Bulldogs an insurance run in the sixth with a solo shot to right field. Snow, the junior designated player, joined her sister, Nicole, as members of the Snow family to homer at Suddenlink Field. Nicole Snow was an All-Region player and Academic All-American for the Bulldogs.
Oliveira (16-3) went five innings and allowed no earned runs. She walked two and struck out two. She threw 90 pitches.
Jordaine Bishop recorded the final six outs. The junior right-hander allowed just one hit, and she struck out one.
Kelly Jurden, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a Second Team All-American, went 1-for-3 with an RBI, a walk, and her DIII-leading 56th stolen base. Jurden keeps adding to her school and conference single-season steals records.
Jurden won the New Balance/NFCA Golden Shoe award Wednesday night as DIII's top base stealer.