Allegheny’s performance in the opening round of the North Coast Athletic Conference softball tournament could have been attributed to many things most notably inexperience and youth.

But Allegheny head coach Sandra Sanford, who saw her Lady Gators go 26-9-1 during the regular season and clinch their first NCAC regular season title since 2008, isn’t making any kind of excuses.

“We just came out flat,” Sanford said. “I’m not sure how you come out flat in a conference tournament. But we did. We just didn’t get it done.”

The Lady Gators, the No. 1 seed and ranked third in the latest NCAA Central Regional rankings, fell to No. 4 seed Denison 3-0 on Friday in the opening round of the NCAC championship tournament at Robertson Field.

The shutout is the first suffered by Allegheny since falling to the University of Chicago 9-0 back on March 23 at the National Training Center Spring Games in Florida.

“It’s certainly disappointing,” Sanford said. “It makes for a really long road to win the championship when you get in the losers’ bracket. But they’ll go back, rest up and be ready to go (today).”

The Gators got a little longer to digest yesterday’s loss thanks to Mother Nature. Allegheny was scheduled to play its losers’ bracket semifinal against Wooster yesterday afternoon, but two lengthy weather delays postponed that contest to today at noon back at Robertson Field.

The winner will face DePauw in the losers’ bracket final at 2 p.m. for a spot in Sunday’s championship game against Denison scheduled for 10 a.m. Denison topped DePauw 4-2 in the winners’ bracket semifinal.

Wooster fell to DePauw in the opening round 2-1.

“I think for us it’s a godsend that we are pushed to (today),” Sanford said, “so we can regroup and refocus and come back out firing on all cylinders.”

Allegheny had opportunities against Denison, which the Gators swept during the regular season. In fact, the Gators had their leadoff runner on base three times in the game. Two of those batters reached second base with just one out, but were unable to score.

The Gators’ best chance to score came in the fourth inning. Sadie Stuart hit a two-out single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. She was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a single by Maureen Pallone.

Allegheny had just five base hits. Denison had four. Two of the Big Red’s runs were unearned and came in the seventh inning. Its first run — the game-winner — was scored on a wild pitch in the fourth frame.

“You’ve got to hit to win and we didn’t hit,” Sanford said.

“I think we have proven that we have a lot of fight in us,” she added. “I think we’re certainly ready to give it a go.”

Yesterday’s results prove just how competitive the NCAC is with No. 4 seed Denison advancing to the championship game. The Gators entered the NCAC tournament having not lost a single game against its fellow championship contenders.

“One through five and even six in our conference you could toss dice and throw them in seedings,” Sanford said. “And it would be just as competitive as a tournament as it is right now.”

Stuart had two hits for the Gators (26-10-1), including a leadoff double in the seventh. Caitlin Nealer took the loss on the mound. She pitched all seven innings and allowed four hits and three runs (one earned) on one walk with seven strikeouts.

Gretchen Staubach had a two-run double in the seventh inning for Denison (25-16).

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