Apr 8, 2008

Softball splits with JMU, takes two of three from Birmingham-Southern

by Miranda Fielder
On April 2, the Lady Flames softball team split a doubleheader with the James Madison University (JMU) Lady Dukes in the second appearance at home. After a grueling 11 innings, Lady Flames came out on top in the first game, holding on for a 5-4 win. During the fourth inning, freshman Cassie Hendrix lined a single to left field and was brought home on senior Ashley Williams’ home run over the left field fence.

“I’m a designated hitter and knew that I had to step it up,” Williams said. “I knew I had to score some runs.” ? With the score tied 2-2, junior Beth Bennett came to the plate and belted the first pitch she saw over the center field fence to put the Lady Flames ahead 3-2. JMU tacked on two runs during the game to Liberty’s one, sending the game into extra innings with the score tied 4-4.

In the bottom of the 11th inning, sophomore J’nae Jefferson reached on a fielder’s choice, and freshman Leah Cossentino stepped into the batter’s box and lined a game-winning line drive double to right center, scoring Jefferson to end the game. In game two, the Lady Flames jumped out to an early 1-0 lead off Williams’ RBI double.

However, JMU’s bats came alive in the top of the third as Katie Spitzer took a Tiffani Smith delivery over the fence for a two-run shot, giving the Lady Dukes a 2-1 lead. After Liberty tied things up in the bottom of the fourth inning on Cossentino’s RBI single, Spitzer struck again, hitting a 3-2 offering from Smith into the gap in left-center. Spitzer came around to score on Courtney Simmons’ single back through the middle. JMU would hold on for the 4-2 victory in game two.

On April 4, the Lady Flames faced Birmingham-Southern College Lady Panthers at home, kicking off the first conference game this season. Freshman Elena Lampman went two-for-three at the plate while senior Shannon McKain hit a home run over the left field fence and Bennett had a double as the Lady Flames earned a 4-1 victory.

Sophomore pitcher Dana Wheeler scattered five hits over 6 1/3 innings of work, striking out four for her fourth win of the season. The next game brought another win for the Lady Flames. Smith battled back from her sub-par performance against JMU just two days earlier and pitched seven complete innings of shutout ball, allowing only three hits in the 4-0 victory.

Freshman Amber Depasquale had the first RBI of the afternoon in the second inning, plating McKain with a base hit to left field. In the third inning, Williams cranked a solo home run to center field, giving the Lady Flames a 2-0 lead, which the team would not relinquish.

The victory also marked Head Coach Paul Wetmore’s 400th collegiate victory, making him the 89th coach to reach this level in the NCAA softball history.

April 6 was the final day the Lady Flames would face the Lady Panthers at the Liberty softball field. The Lady Flames’ bats were sluggish at the beginning of the game, and Birmingham-Southern took advantage, scoring four runs within the first two innings. Throughout the game, the Lady Flames peppered hits. Bennett doubled again down the left field line while Depasquale hit a solo home run to center in the fifth. In the last inning, the Lady Flames plated three runs and had five hits, but it proved to be too little, too late as Birmingham-Southern ran away with a 9-5 victory.

Wetmore still feels that the Lady Flames are making improvements throughout the lineup and within the pitching staff.

“It was a great way to start our conference play with two big wins on Friday,” Wetmore said. “We got key shots from the bottom of our lineup and the long ball from seniors like (Ashley) Williams and (Shannon) McKain. (Dana) Wheeler continues to lead the staff from the mound, and it looks like (Tiffani) Smith is pitching with more confidence.” The Lady Flames will be traveling to the University of Tennessee on April 8 for a two-game set against the No.12 team in the nation.

Following the doubleheader, Liberty returns home on April 9 to face the University of Virginia in another non-conference doubleheader. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. Contact Miranda Fielder at mdfielder@liberty.edu.
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