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No. 3 Radford Ends No. 1 Seed Liberty's Big South Softball Championship Stay with 7-4 Win
With the victory, the Highlanders tie a school record for victories in a season as Radford pushes its record to 41-26 on the year. Radford will face No. 6 Charleston Southern, who upended No. 5 Birmingham-Southern earlier today, in the final game of today's tournament action at 5:30 p.m.
The loss eliminates the Lady Flames from the Championship and drops Liberty's record to 36-26. This marks the first time since the 1988 tournament a top-seeded team has gone winless in a Big South Softball Championship.
Radford jumped out to an early lead in the top of the second as Sarah Himan led off the inning with a single through the left side of the infield. Hope Creasy followed with a two-run homer well over the fence in straightaway center field, her fifth of the year, staking the Highlanders to a 2-0 edge.
The Lady Flames trimmed the lead in half as Beth Hensley singled to center field to start the bottom of the second. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Courtney Johnson, first-team all-conference selection Dawn Jeffs lined a single to right, scoring Hensley from second to cut Radford's lead to one run, 2-1.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the fifth inning when Big South Player of the Year Jessica Moore was intentionally walked for third-straight time and seventh-consecutive trip to the plate to start a two-out rally.
Second-team all-conference catcher Ashley Williams followed by connecting on her 13th home run of the year, hitting a low and outside pitch over the fence in left center, giving Liberty a 3-2 lead.
But the advantage was short lived as the Highlanders batted around the order, exploding for four runs on five hits to take a three-run lead.
Back-to-back singles by Amanda Davidson and Michelle Carlson were followed by consecutive sacrifice bunts by Ashley Carlson and Jennifer Everhart, including the second by Everhart scoring a charging Davidson from third.
Cassie Rhodes followed with a single to left field, setting the stage for Ashley Taylor to help out her own cause as the junior clocked her team-leading 10th home run of the year, a three-run shot to left-center field, giving the Highlanders a 6-3 lead.
Liberty cut the lead to two runs in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out rally, starting with Jeffs single through the right side of the infield, followed by a Shannon McKain walk.
And for the first time of the tournament, a team elected to pitch to Moore and the senior came through with a single up the middle, plating Jeffs to narrow the margin to two runs, 6-4.
A lead-off error in the top of the seventh inning gave the Highlanders an insurance run as Davidson's ground ball up the middle was misplayed by J'nae Jefferson. After a sacrifice bunt move Davidson into scoring position, Everhart cashed in on the opportunity, driving in the left fielder with a double to the gap in left center.
Liberty got its first runner on in the bottom of the seventh as Sarah Swor reached on a throwing error by first-team all-conference shortstop Rhodes, but Taylor was able to keep the ball in the infield for the final three outs to secure the victory.
Taylor, this year's Big South Pitcher of the Year, upped her record to 21-16 on the season, allowing four runs on six hits, while striking out five and walking seven batters.
Second-team all-conference selection Terra Lowe suffered the loss, falling to 16-9 on the year as the senior allowed six runs on 13 hits, walking three and striking out six batters.
Williams and Jeffs both finished the game 2-for-4 with a run scored. Williams drove in two runners, while Jeffs' two hits continued to increase her single-season school record hits total on the season to 91.
Officially, Moore only had one at bat during the championship with the RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, preceded by seven-straight intentionally walks.