Although things did not go exactly as planned for third-ranked Chapman, the Panthers defeated Buena Vista, 8-3, Sunday at Hart Park to win the West Regional and reach the NCAA Division III softball finals for the third time in four years.
The finals begin Thursday in Salem, Va.
Freshman Catie Lacy pitched a seven-hitter, striking out six and giving up one earned run. Chapman had 11 hits against Buena Vista (27-11), from Storm Lake, Iowa.
Top-seeded Chapman (35-7) advanced to the NCAA finals by winning its final four tournament games.
"That's how champions are made," Chapman Coach Janet Lloyd said. "We're excited because we expected this to be a rebuilding year of sorts, especially with three freshman pitchers.
"You always are shooting for the top, and for us that meant Virginia. But deep down, you don't know if it's really possible. But the young pitchers came through."
After freshman pitcher Linsey Buendia defeated Buena Vista on Saturday, 9-3, Lacy (14-1) beat Buena Vista for her third tournament victory. But Lacy did let a 3-0 lead get away when Buena Vista scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
"I wasn't worried," Lacy said. "I knew we'd pick each other up."
Chapman scored three runs in the fifth.
Consecutive singles by Lacee Rashi (one run batted in), Katie Chauvin (two runs scored, one RBI) and Shannon Carlson (two runs scored) loaded the bases. Cindy Bemis walked to force in a run.
Amie Barnes singled to center to drive in Chauvin and make the score 5-3. A throwing error on the play enabled Carlson to score.
Stephanie Carew and Dawn Lopez each had two hits and an RBI for the Panthers, who scored only two runs in the first two games. But Chapman hit .361 (35 of 97) and averaged more than eight runs in the final three regional games.
Said Lloyd: "Everything seems to be falling into place."