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No. 9 Seed Liberty Uses 5-Run 6th to Eliminate No. 8 Seed Gardner-Webb, 8-5
A two-out grand slam by Grace Nordan capped a five-run Liberty sixth inning, as No. 9 seed Lady Flames rallied to down No. 8 seed Gardner-Webb, 8-5, Thursday in the play-in game of the 2014 Big South Softball Championship at Coastal Carolina Softball Stadium.
With the win, Liberty's (11-44) third in a row, the Lady Flames advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament, where they will take on host and No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina (38-14) at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon. The Runnin' Bulldogs end their season with a 16-36 record. Liberty is now 21-7 all-time against Gardner-Webb, including 3-0 in postseason play.
The Lady Flames won their conference tournament opener for the second season in a row, after beating Longwood on May 9, 2013. As was the case in that game, Liberty hit three homers today.
Kelby Allen went 2-for-3 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored for Liberty. She is now tied for ninth in program history with 23 career homers. Nordan's one hit, her second homer of the season, produced four runs. Megan Robinson batted 2-for-4 with a double, while Katie Han and Blair Lawrence both went 2-for-3.
Gardner-Webb's Taylar Pridgen went 3-for-4, while Samantha Meenaghan hit 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Savannah Burns went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, and Kellie Beres added two hits.
Annah Jo Brittingham (6-20) picked up her third win in a row, allowing five runs (three earned) on 11 hits, walking two and fanning four. She worked through trouble, as Gardner-Webb stranded 10 runners.
Jessica Childers (10-20) drew the loss, allowing eight runs on 11 hits, striking out two and walking three.
The Runnin' Bulldogs struck during their first time at bat, as Meenaghan and Beres hit back-to-back singles. With runners on second and third and two outs, an error allowed one run to score. Burns then hit a double to deep center, scoring Beres for a 2-0 lead. Scarlett Harris then fouled out to third.
After a scoreless second inning, the Lady Flames tied the game with two runs in the top of the third. Robinson singled with two outs, and Allen then blasted a two-run home run off of the scoreboard in right center, tying the game at 2-2. Hanna Nichols popped out for the third out.
Gardner-Webb responded during the bottom of the third. Megan Champion drew a leadoff walk, and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Amanda Gomes doubled, putting runners on second and third before Burns hit a two-run single up the middle for a 4-2 Runnin' Bulldogs lead. Brittingham got the next two batters out to end the inning.
The Runnin' Bulldogs received a great scoring chance in the third, loading the bases with nobody out. Liberty right-hander Brittingham buckled down, getting the next three batters to fly out and keep the score at 4-2.
Both Liberty and Gardner-Webb went in order during the fifth, setting the table for the Lady Flames' sixth-inning outburst.
Allen led off the sixth with her team-leading ninth home run of the season. Nichols, Han and Lawrence all hit back-to-back singles, filling the bases with nobody out. After a lineout and a fielder's choice, Nordan drove a 3-2 offering over the fence in left for a 7-4 Liberty advantage.
Gardner-Webb got one run back in the bottom of the sixth, as Pridgen and Meenaghan led off with singles. After two outs, Gibbons hit an RBI single to make it 7-5. Gomes flied out to left for the third out.
Liberty added an insurance run during the seventh. Childers walked Allen intentionally, and Han kept the rally alive with a single to center. Lawrence then singled up the middle, boosting the lead to 8-5.
Brittingham worked around an error to lead off the bottom of the seventh, retiring the final three batters in order to cap the 8-5 win and extend Liberty's season.