RALEIGH, N.C. -- Timely hitting combined with costly mistakes led to a 5-3 victory by No. 1-seed Rutgers-Camden over back-to-back defending champion St. Thomas. The win places Rutgers-Camden into the Monday championship and means St. Thomas will have to fight its way through the loser's bracket for a chance at a third straight title.
The victory marked the end of a St. Thomas 29-game postseason win streak, as well as a 24-game postseason win streak for senior pitcher Janet Nagle.
St. Thomas appeared in control through the first two frames, as the Tommies scored one in the first after senior all-American Nikki Conway reached on a single up the middle. After stealing second and moving to third on an errant throw, Conway scored on Maria Bye fielder's choice.
Rutgers-Camden would answer in the bottom of the third after a leadoff walk by Alaina Giles and subsequent single by Marissa Van Cleef. Senior pitcher and all-American Michelle Schlichtig singled home Giles and would later score on a Megan Farrell single.
St. Thomas briefly regained control of the lead in the fifth, courtesy of a Carrie Embree walk and Conway double, followed by an RBI single by Bye.
The fifth inning proved to be the undoing of the Tommies; Nagle replaced starter Bye and walked leadoff hitter Autumn Millett. A potential double play ball was mishandled to place runners at first and second, the first of three St. Thomas errors in the inning. After a walk to load the bases, an illegal pitch was called on Nagle to plate the tying run. Designated player Amber Parker would eventually follow with a single up the middle that was misplayed to lead to two more Rutgers-Camden runs.
St. Thomas attempted to string together a rally in the top of the seventh with a leadoff triple by Nikki Conway and another run-scoring single by Bye. The threat ended when Schlichtig forced Nagle to fly out to left to end the game. Conway's seventh-inning run was the 226th of her career and broke the NCAA Division III record set by New Jersey's Michelle Carlson in 1995.
Schlichtig went the distance for the Scarlet Raptors, giving up four runs on six hits and three Rutgers-Camden errors for the win. Nagle took the tough loss for St. Thomas, giving up three runs on one hit.
St. Thomas will face the winner of the Muskingum/Linfield game tomorrow at noon, and the winner of that game will have to beat Rutgers-Camden for the title. The championship game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, and the if-necessary game is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m.