HOLLAND, Mich. – Following a day off because of rain in the area, the Franklin College softball team looked to stay alive in the NCAA regionals on Saturday (May 12), taking on Greenville University in an elimination contest.
The Grizzlies (30-12) kept their season alive and notched the program's first ever NCAA victory, downing Greenville (21-17) in the opening game, 10-0. Franklin turned right around and faced off with regional host Hope College with a trip to the regional final on the line.
It was there the Grizzlies' season ended, as the Flying Dutch (31-10) upended Franklin, 6-1, ending the Grizzlies' record-setting season.
"It was a season of firsts for this program," Head coach Butch Zike said. "It was the first time we won 30 games, won our first NCAA tournament game and our senior class was part of teams that won more games every single year they were here. We're extremely proud of this team for everything that they did this year and with the group we have coming back, we hope it's the start of several tournament appearances."
Game One: Franklin 10 – Greenville 0 (5 inn.)
With two outs in the bottom of the first, the Grizzlies opened the scoring when Alexis Tarver singled home Lexi Gaffney from second base. Franklin would go down in order in the second, but the offense ended up being an inning away from breaking the game wide open.
The first three batters reached to open the third, setting the table for Natalie Weber who made the Panthers pay with a bases-clearing double to center field. One batter later, Weber crossed the plate herself when Tarver doubled into right field to make it a 5-0 game. Later in the inning, Morgan Burch brought a run in with a ground out one spot ahead of Lauren Huebler, who brought the Grizzlies' seventh run in with an RBI single.
The middle of the Franklin order continued their tear in the bottom of the fourth. Gaffney and Justice Carmichael started the inning with singles before coming in to score on a Weber triple down the right field line. One inning later, the freshman catcher came in to score on an error, finishing off the scoring.
Senior Olivia Paszek (18-4) was brilliant in the circle for Franklin, allowing three hits and striking out four to pick up her fifth shutout of the season.
Game Two: Hope 6 – Franklin 1
Down by a run in the bottom of the third inning, the Grizzlies drew even with the Flying Dutch when Monica Collins brought home pinch-runner Jaclyn Tackett with a two-out RBI double that made it a 1-1 game.
One inning later, the Grizzlies had a chance to take their first lead of the game, loading the bases with two outs. But a strikeout would end the Franklin threat and Hope would capitalize with five runs in the fourth. The Grizzlies would put runners on in both the fifth and sixth innings, but couldn't scrape together any runs before the final out.
The Grizzlies finish the year with a program-record 30 wins, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time after winning their first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) tournament.
Saturday was also the final games in the careers of Olivia Paszek, Grace Paszek, Morgan Burch, Lauren Huebler, Alexis Tarver and Megan Goebel. The 2018 senior class will go down as the winningest class in the history of the program, increasing their win total all four years.