Brandywine captures USCAA softball national championship with walk-off victory

2023 Penn State Brandywine softball team posing with its championship banner and trophy

The Penn State Brandywine softball team won its first-ever national championship on May 18 in DuBois, Pa.

Credit: Penn State Brandywine

MEDIA, Pa. — First-year student Kaylee Mushinski saved the biggest of her record-setting 60 hits and 60 runs batted in for her final at-bat of the season, delivering a walk-off single during the bottom of the seventh inning to send the Penn State Brandywine softball team to its first USCAA national championship, as the second-seeded Lions bested No. 9 Mississippi University for Women (MUW) 10-9 on May 18.

Mushinski, a first team all-American and conference player of the year, capped a two-run rally during the bottom of the seventh, ending a back-and-forth game that saw the teams swap the lead during their final four at-bats.

Lexi Bussenger's third hit of the day, a leadoff single, got the seventh inning started. Jess James followed with a triple into the right-center field gap, scoring Bussenger with the game-tying run, before Mushinski smacked a single through the left side of the infield, allowing James to cross home as the championship-winning run.

The victory finished off the finest season in Brandywine softball's 10-year history as the Lions won their last 13 games and completed the year with 37 wins, both program records. In seven postseason games, Brandywine outscored its opponents 54-16.

"I told the team at our first practice that they were special and have a chance to do something really special this year. Well, guess what? We're the national champions!" said 10th-year head coach Mark Caserta, the only head coach in program history and a winner of more than 230 games during his time at Brandywine.

A MUW error helped Brandywine build a three-run lead after the first. MUW chipped away with two scores in the second, but Crystal Cassario chopped an RBI single down the left field line, pushing the margin to 4-2 through three innings.

MUW scored once in the fifth inning and twice in the sixth to take the lead, but Brandywine answered immediately with four runs in the sixth. A one-out error allowed Mushinski to cross home and Meghan Ferry followed with a two-run double that put Brandywine back in front. Two batters later, Emily Reagan provided the Lions with a two-out insurance run, pushing Ferry across with a base hit that made the score 8-5.

Mississippi was not done as the Owls used a two-run home run and consecutive RBI singles to re-take the lead, 9-8, in the top of the seventh; however, Ferry threw out a potential insurance run at the plate to end the frame, helping to setup Brandywine's walk-off championship triumph.

In addition to Bussenger's three-hit day, Reagan and Payton Landis both tallied two knocks, while James and Karly Rees both scored two runs. Mushinski completed a standout rookie season during which she set program single-season records for hits (60) and RBI (60).

Three Brandywine pitchers took to the circle as April Lewandowski struck out three through the first three innings, Maddie DeFazio fanned one over the next three innings and Cassario was credited with the win after pitching the seventh inning.

Ferry was named World Series MVP after recording two home runs, two doubles and nine RBI in four tournament games. She was joined on the USCAA All-Tournament Team by Cassario, James and Mushinski.

Brandywine, the first school from the Penn State University Athletic Conference to win a softball national title and the first to win national titles in two different sports (men's soccer - 2018 and 2021), has won 72 games during the last two seasons and eight-straight conference championships. The national championship triumph marked Brandywine's 18th victory in 23 games at Heindl Field since the beginning of the 2021 season.