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2017-06-14 / Featured / News

Chesterfield softball players win title for Va. Wesleyan

BY BEN ORCUTT CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Local softball standouts Megan Meindl, Jessica Lindsay and Hanna Hull helped Virginia Wesleyan University win a national championship last month. 
ASH DANIEL Local softball standouts Megan Meindl, Jessica Lindsay and Hanna Hull helped Virginia Wesleyan University win a national championship last month. ASH DANIEL It will take a while for Hanna Hull, Jessica Lindsay and Megan Meindl to wipe the smiles from their faces. And rightfully so.

That’s because the trio are members of Virginia Wesleyan University’s softball team, which went 54-3 and captured the 2017 NCAA Division III national championship on May 29 in Oklahoma City. All three were standouts at Chesterfield high schools.

“The feeling is absolutely indescribable,” Meindl, a rising senior outfielder who played for Cosby High, said during an interview with her teammates at Sunday Park in Brandermill. “I knew that we were always capable of it, but the fact that it actually happened was unbelievable.”

A rising junior catcher who played for Manchester High, Lindsay credited the win in part to the team’s bond.

“It’s pretty unreal to think about all the friendships that [I] have made over the past two years that I have been [at VWU],” she said. “It was really cool to see the changes from freshman year to sophomore year and the love that everyone really did show for each other between the two seasons and how we all really came together to pull this out.”

Hull, a rising sophomore who pitched for Clover Hill High, agreed.

“To experience it with those girls was just the greatest thing ever,” she said.

VWU was one of eight out of 62 teams to advance to the Division III Women’s College World Series. After opening with a loss to the University of Texas at Tyler, the VWU Marlins rallied and posted two wins against the Texas school for the right to advance to the championship round against the St. John Fisher College Cardinals of Rochester, New York.

The Marlins won the first game 5-0 on the strength of Hull’s one-hitter, in which she struck out 13 batters.

In the second game of the best-of-three championship round, Hull was brought in to relieve fellow freshman pitcher Courtney Wright of Orange County in the sixth inning and kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard.

The Marlins maintained their 1-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh, and Hull fanned the first two Cardinals to put VWU within one out of a national championship.

Hull worked batter Emma Savas to a 2-2 count and the Marlins were just a strike away from taking the national championship trophy back to Virginia Beach.

Lindsay said she relayed pitching coach Jim Inzana’s signal to Hull: a rising inside pitch, also called a rise ball, which deceptively appears to ascend as it reaches the plate.

“Rise ball’s my favorite,” said a smiling Hull.

Her teammates were standing in the dugout.

“I think we were all on the verge of jumping over the ledge,” Meindl said.

And then, with a swing and a miss, it was over. Lindsay said she threw off her catcher’s mask, ran to the mound and picked Hull up, and the Marlins piled on top.

Marlins head coach Brandon Elliott said that championship moment encapsulated his stint at the helm of the VWU program.

“Ten years of emotion just all in one,” Elliott said, adding that the highlight for him was the happiness the championship brought to the players.

“I’m just glad to see all the joy on their faces,” he said. “They’re just so excited about what they’ve done.”

Hull had the opportunity to go to Division I schools like Virginia Tech or Virginia Commonwealth University, but chose instead to head east on I-64 to VWU.

“It just fit,” Hull said.

And how. Hull was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament and earned All-America honors as well. In early June, she was also named Schutt Sports/NFCA National Player of the Year. She completed the season with a record of 32-3 with five saves and an earned run average of 0.51 to go with 372 strikeouts in 220 innings pitched.

“She’s a humble kid,” Elliott said. “She’s almost embarrassed by her successes, which I think really helps her with her teammates. She’s one of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach. I think when you take her fire and her competiveness and you put it with her talent and then her humility, she’s special. The things she did this year were record breaking.”

Lindsay showed vast improvement from her freshman season, Elliott said.

“She caught every single inning in the NCAA tournament,” he said. “She was a great battery mate for Hanna, and they work so well together. It’s a great team.”

Meindl saw limited action during the World Series, but was no less important to the Marlins, Elliott said.

“Our role players like Megan, they’re instrumental in what we’re doing every day and pushing the kid ahead of them and just maintaining their support for their team,” Elliott said.

Lindsay perhaps best summed up her and her teammates’ attitude heading into next year.

“My mindset is, I hope that we celebrate this as long as possible but we don’t dwell on it,” she said, “and think that just because we made it here this year that we’re going to make it there automatically next year.”

In the meantime, the Chesterfield trio will keep on smiling. ¦

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