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Lady Flames fall short in extras
LU 14, UNCG 10
The Liberty University Lady Flames softball team (6-31, 1-11 Big South) defeated the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) Spartans (15-20, 4-8 Southern) 14-10 in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday, April 2.
After the Spartans took an early 1-0 lead, the Lady Flames responded by scoring four runs in the bottom of the second inning. UNCG errors and RBIs from second baseman Megan Robinson and catcher Kelby Allen gave Liberty the three-run lead.
But then, UNCG took the lead back, scoring four runs of its own in the top of the third. After RBI singles from catcher Lindsay Thomas and third baseman Danielle Vega, Spartans designated player Nicole Thomas hit an RBI single to bring her teammates home. However, the Lady Flames withstood the rally from UNCG.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Lady Flames had a seven-run outburst, which helped them secure their victory against the Spartans.
UNCG 8, LU 5
After winning the first game, Lady Flames fell 8-5 to the Spartans in extra innings in the second game of the doubleheader April 2.
In the top of the eighth, the Spartans broke a 4-4 tie with right fielder Nicole Thomas hitting an RBI single bringing second baseman Dominique Madruga home giving UNCG the lead.
With two on base, left fielder Kendall McKinney hit a three-run home run to give the Spartans an 8-4 lead. The Lady Flames attempted to come back, scoring one run in the bottom frame, but fell short.
“Everyone was moving in the right places, where they need to be,” Head Coach Dot Richardson said. “When the other team scored, we came back and battled. We didn’t give up. Even this last inning, you saw us fighting, and that is what makes a champion.”
Annah Jo Brittingham started on the mound for Liberty. After a double from Madruga, first basemen Katelyn Bedwell hit an RBI single to bring her teammate home, giving UNCG a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Flames responded with a two-run home run from Allen, putting them up 2-1 in the bottom of the first.
In the bottom of the third, Liberty left fielder Blair Lawrence got on base after an error from the Spartan third baseman. She then stole second and, after the very next pitch, stole third. As Lawrence reached third base, UNCG catcher Ally Vergona threw the ball to an unsuspecting third baseman. The ball zipped past her and allowed Lawrence to steal home and increase the Lady Flames lead to two. Center fielder Katie Zavondy scored after a sacrifice fly from Allen, which added one more run in the third for Liberty.
Brittingham and the Lady Flames kept the Spartans at one run through the first four innings, but in the top of the fifth, UNCG had two on base, both in scoring position. The Spartans capitalized, as third baseman Vega hit a home run to tie the game at four. They hit a single and a double, respectively. After Vega’s home run, Richardson made a pitching change, moving Brittingham to third and placing pitcher Alyssa DiMartino on the mound. DiMartino ended the inning for the Lady Flames and prevented UNCG from taking the lead.
“I tried to do something unique,” Richardson said. “When you go through the normal rules of softball, you can only substitute once. And that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. And I realized that we have pitchers that can play other positions. So when you saw me move them from one defensive position to another, you can do that all game. … That was just a strategy I had. We knew which batter hit (Annah Jo) well and which one hit Alyssa well.”
Richardson also used this strategy in the bottom of the fifth, as she replaced DiMartino with Brittingham for one Spartan batter. After that batter, Richardson made the switch back.
Neither team scored in the sixth or seventh innings, which forced the matchup into extra innings.
Despite the loss, the Lady Flames believe they are playing well. Richardson and Brittingham agreed that mental toughness and endurance were major areas they would like to see improvement.
“I’d probably like to see us keeping the fundamentals, even when we get tired,” Brittingham said. “Even if you get tired, you just need to pick yourself up, always make that catch, use two hands, just always stay in there.”
The Lady Flames were swept by the Coastal Carolina Lady Chanticleers April 5-6 in a three-game series.
Liberty continues conference play against the Radford University Highlanders Tuesday, April 8 at 4 and 6 p.m.