Hull One-Hits St. John Fisher in First Game of NCAA Championship Series

Hanna Hull allowed just one hit and fanned 13 batters as Virginia Wesleyan moved to within one victory of claiming the 2017 national title.
Hanna Hull allowed just one hit and fanned 13 batters as Virginia Wesleyan moved to within one victory of claiming the 2017 national title.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. --- Homeruns and stellar pitching have Virginia Wesleyan softball just one win away from capturing the program's first national title as the Marlins knocked off St. John Fisher College, 5-0, in the first of two scheduled games in the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament championship series.

VWU lefty Hanna Hull improved to 32-3 with a one-hit shutout of the Cardinals. She fanned 13 batters without issuing a free pass, bringing her ever-growing ODAC single-season strikeout total to 368. The Marlins' offense chipped away at Thayer with one run early on, but a solo homer from Blake Henderson and a two-run opposite blast from All-American Cassetty Howerin helped give Hull plenty of insurance in wrapping up the VWU's NCAA Division III record 53rd victory of the season.

St. John Fisher and Virginia Wesleyan will flip sides in the second of today's contests, which is now slated to begin at 4:35 p.m. ET.

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Virginia Wesleyan (53-3) got its first run in the top of the third thanks to a seemingly never-ending at bat by Howerin. With Kiersten Richardson on second --- she'd move up to third on a passed ball during the at bat --- Howerin saw 14 pitches using a series of fouled off offerings to stay alive. She sent the final pitch to shallow left field where a diving attempt by Emma Savas came up short, allowing Richardson to score and Howerin to trot into second with a double.

Then it was time for the long ball. Blake Henderson put the first charge into ASA Hall of Fame Stadium as she hammered a solo shot to straightaway center with two down for a 2-0 Marlins lead in the fifth. Howerin showed off some impressive power in the seventh as she blasted a two-run homer the opposite way to right-center to bring around Madison Glaubke.

VWU tacked on one final run in the seventh with some well-attuned baserunning. With Henderson on third, pinch runner Megan Meindl intentionally got into a run-down between first and second on a steal attempt. She stayed in the run-down long enough to allow Henderson to scamper home for the game's fifth run.

That was certainly plenty of production for Hull as she faced just two batters over the minimum. She allowed two baserunners overall, both of which came in the fourth inning. She gave up a single to All-American third baseman Katie Mazierski and hit Sarah Kubik with a pitch. Kubik was the lone Cardinal in the lineup that the Division III Rookie of the Year and All-American did not strike out.