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Texas Lutheran drops first game of national championship series 4-2 to Virginia Wesleyan

Haley Padilla (photo Sideline Media Productions)
Haley Padilla (photo Sideline Media Productions)
SALEM, Va. -- Monday at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship Finals, Texas Lutheran dropped the first game of the best 2-of-3 series 4-2 to Virginia Wesleyan as the Marlins made four first-inning runs hold up at Moyer Sports Complex.

The Marlins, national champions in 2017 and 2018, moved within one game of capturing the national title. Game two of the series is set for 10 a.m. central / 11 a.m. eastern on Tuesday.
 
TLU's overall record now stands at 35-5. VWU improved to 45-5-1.
 
Designated player Karlee Fretz hit a three-run home run down the left field line in the four-run first. That homer came after the Marlins scored the first run on a slow ground ball to TLU pitcher Sydney Ouellette.
 
"We just got off to a rough start," said Wade Wilson, TLU's head softball coach. "Syd made a couple of pitches up in the zone, and they punished her for it. We had an error on that little swinging bunt. That was unfortunate, and she threw it away, and the runner got to second. After that she settled in. We dodged a few bullets there throughout the game, but she kept us in the game, and that's all you can ask. You get rid of that (first inning) then it's a different ball game."
 
"But we really didn't do a whole lot offensively. We had two hits back to back, with Metzer's single and then Haley (Padilla) ran into one and it left the yard. But we had a chance there in the sixth, and we didn't make the most of it. That's kind of the way softball goes at this level. We had some opportunities, didn't capitalize, and got beat by a better team today."
 
TLU, the defending national champion, lost for the first time since March 16. VWU snapped TLU's 27-game win streak.
 
TLU also lost for the first time at the National Championship Finals. TLU went 5-0 in capturing the national title in 2019. The Bulldogs were 3-0 in Salem in 2021 in advancing to the finals series round.
 
Hannah Hull, the winningest pitcher in NCAA DIII Softball history, tossed a complete-game two-hitter for the Marlins. Hull (22-3) struck out seven, walked two, and surrendered just the two hits.
 
Ouellette took the loss for TLU. The redshirt freshman right-hander allowed four earned runs, walked two and struck out one. She fell to 16-3.
 
TLU got on the board against Hull with a two-run home run from Haley Padilla, the Bulldogs' career and single-season home run leader. The blast to left was Padilla's 24th of her career and the 12th of the season.
 
"I was just looking for something over the plate," said Padilla. "We had a plan going into it, and what really made my at-bat successful was sticking to the plan."
 
Padilla's home run came in the second. Both TLU hits occurred in the second. Sarah Metzer singled to right field in front of Padilla with one out in the inning.
 
The Bulldogs threatened in the sixth with a walk from Casey Martin. The walk brought TLU All-American Rebecca Snow and All-Region selection Skylar Ouellette to the plate. Each player, with home run power, represented the tying run at the plate. Snow grounded out to second, and Ouellette grounded out to short.
Hull retired the Bulldogs in order in the seventh. It was the second time Hull has defeated the Bulldogs. She tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout against TLU in 2018 when the two teams met in the NFCA First Pitch Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. VWU won 5-0.
 
TLU needs two wins on Tuesday, with at least one likely coming against Hull, to keep the national title in Seguin, Texas.