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Cantrell Homers Twice to Lift No. 4 Seed Coastal Carolina to Upset Victory over No. 1 Seed Liberty at Big South Softball Championship
With the victory, the Chanticleers up their record to 22-32 on the season and advance to play the winner of No. 2 seed Winthrop and No. 3 Radford, today's final game, tomorrow at 3 p.m.
The Lady Flames drop to 36-25 on the season and fall into the losers' bracket of the double-elimination championship. Liberty will square off against the loser of the Radford-Winthrop match-up in Game 6, tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
The host Chanticleers wasted little time taking a lead when Cantrell hit her team-leading 13th home run in the top of the first, sending a solo shot over the fence in right center to give Coastal Carolina an early, 1-0 lead.
The Lady Flames evened the game in the bottom of the second, as Beth Bennett led off the inning with an infield single deep into the hole at shortstop. After advancing to second on a groundout by Courtney Johnson, Bennett scored on a J'nae Jefferson single through the left side of the infield, knotting the game at 1-1.
Liberty continued to add runs to the scoreboard in the third, plating two runs on three hits to take a two-run lead. Shannon McKain started the frame with a single through the left side, followed by Jessica Moore's intentional walk.
Second-team all-conference honoree Ashley Williams kept things going for Liberty with a single over the head of center fielder Danyelle Gerdts. A flare off the bat of Claire Fridey into left field then plated pinch runner Rachel Love.
Bennett grounded into a fielder's choice play where Moore was forced out at third and Williams crossed the plate, staking Liberty to a 3-1 lead.
The Lady Flames tacked on an additional run in the bottom of the fifth inning as Johnson drew a one-out walk. After advancing to second on Beth Hensley's single to the gap in left and to third on a deep fly by to center by Jefferson, pinch runner Kristina Jerry scored on a wild pitch by starter Ashley Frederick, pushing Liberty's lead to three runs, 4-1.
And Liberty needed each of those runs as Coastal Carolina tied the game in the top of the sixth with one swing of the bat. Cantrell led off the inning by drawing a walk, followed by a single to right by Kristina Sheppard.
After both runners advanced a base on a sacrifice bunt by Ashley Gerdts, Kimberly Cillis tied the game at 4-4 with her seventh home run of the year, a three-run blast over the fence in left-center field.
The score remained the same until the top of the seventh inning as back-to-back walks were issued by relievers Sarah Swor and Sarah Ellis, setting the stage for Cantrell to hit her second of the game by dropping a round tripper just over the fence in left, giving the Chanticleers all the runs they would need for the victory.
Frederick tossed her second complete-game victory of the day, allowing four runs on nine hits over seven innings of work, walking five and striking out four to push her record to 12-15 on the year.
Second-team all-conference pitcher Terra Lowe was roughed up for four runs on five hits, including two of the game's three home runs, in 5 1/3 innings of work. Swor, a fellow senior on the squad, walked two batters, including the game-deciding run to start the top of the seventh. She took the loss and is now 6-8. Ellis finished off the final inning, allowing two runs on a hit, the game-winning homer by Cantrell.
Cantrell was 2-for-2 on the day with three runs scored and four RBI on the pair of home runs. Cillis drove in the other three runs on her own three-run home run, finishing the game 1-for-4.
Williams was the Lady Flames' top batter, finishing the game 3-for-4, followed by McKain's 2-for-4 outing at the plate.
Moore, who was named Big South Player of the Year for the second time in her career last evening at the annual awards banquet, was neutralized offensively, as the Chanticleers elected to intentionally walk her during four-straight at bats.