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Eagles Halt Lady Flames in Extra Innings
The No. 3 seeded Eagles of Winthrop upended No. 2 seed Liberty, 4-3 in nine innings, Thursday night, to stay in the winner's bracket at the 2010 Big South Softball Championship in Conway, S.C.
Both teams recorded nine hits in the evenly-matched contest. Winthrop advances to face No. 1 seed Radford tomorrow, while No. 2 seed Liberty will play a 7 p.m. game in the loser's bracket. The Lady Flames' opponent depends on three games to be played tomorrow during the day: Charleston Southern vs. Presbyterian and Coastal Carolina vs. Gardner-Webb.
Winthrop's Taylor Wright recorded the first hit of the game in the top of the first with two away, reaching on a single down the left field line. But Liberty shortstop made a good play on the next ball, a grounder by Lauren Levin, throwing the force out at first to move into the bottom of the first.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Ashlee Revell led off with a single down the left field line, and advanced to second on a successful sacrifice bunt by Kelly Blea. After Ashleigh Jackson grounded out to first, Veronica Berrie reached on a fielding error by Kelly Strickland. Revell scored on the next play, when Lenny Stoddart singled through the left side. Stoddart was thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw home, ending the at-bat.
Liberty got its first base runner in the bottom of the third, when Amber DePasquale hit a one-out single up the middle. But Winthrop shut the Lady Flames down on the next play, when Cassie Hendrix grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Winthrop offense tried to settle into a groove in the top of the fourth. Revell led off with a single, a line drive that bounced off the body of pitcher Kat Johnson. She advanced to second on another sacrifice bunt by Blea, and moved to third on a Jackson single to right. Revell then crossed the plate when Veronica Berrie singled to left, pushing the score to 2-0 in favor of the Eagles.
With still only one out, Stoddart drew a walk to load the bases and move to the top of the batting order for Winthrop. At that point, Tiffani Smith entered the game in relief, who had picked up a 2-0 complete game shutout win over No. 7 Presbyterian earlier in the day.
On the next play, Megan Chapman grounded into a fielder's choice, as Hendrix threw out Jackson at home. Pearl Coleshill then hit a grounder to Strickland, who tagged second for the force out, halting more damage by the Eagles.
J'nae Jefferson tried to get something started for the Lady Flames in the bottom of the fourth, ripping a base hit to lead off the at-bat. Jenny Law then popped out on a bunt to the catcher for the first out, and Kelly Strickland recorded the second out with a fly ball to left. Ashley Bensinger then grounded into a fielder's choice, and shortstop Chapman stepped on second for the third out, keeping the Lady Flames scoreless.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Bridgett Woods singled through the left side to bring the tying run to the plate. But Meredith Baisden was out on a deep fly ball to center field, and DePasquale grounded out to second to send the game into the sixth frame.
Hendrix single-handedly cut the Eagles' lead in half in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer over the right field fence, bringing the Lady Flames to within one. Hendrix hit three homers during the regular season, the first bombs of the junior's Liberty career.
Jefferson kept the momentum going, reaching on a single to right with still no outs and putting the tying run on base.
Law then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Jefferson into scoring position, but Strickland struck out swinging for the second out.
But Ashley Bensinger wasn't ready for the Lady Flames to take the field again, and dropped a double into left center field, scoring Jefferson from second to tie the game at 2-2.
Smith struck out two batters in the top of the seventh, and Coleshill fouled out to third to send the contest into the bottom of the seventh inning.
After back-to-back strikeouts by reliever Cari Wooldridge, DePasquale and Hendrix reached on back-to-back singles. But Jefferson popped out to shortstop to send the game into extra innings.
Coleshill, who was placed on second via the international tiebreaker rule in the top of the eighth, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Wright. She then scored when Levin singled up the middle, regaining the lead for Winthrop, 3-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, Jefferson advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Law, and scored on a single to center field by Strickland to tie it up, 3-3, with only one out.
Strickland was forced out at second on the next play, a fielder's choice to pitcher Wooldridge by Bensinger. West was retired on a swinging strikeout for the third out.
The Eagles re-took the lead in the top of the ninth when Berrie singled to right center, scoring pinch runner Jenna Harbin for a 4-3 Winthrop advantage.
The Lady Flames got a base runner to third but failed to answer in the bottom of the ninth, and the Eagles walked away with the 4-3 win.
Hendrix paced the Lady Flames, batting 2-for-3 with a home run, while Jefferson was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Berrie led the Eagles, batting 2-for-4 and driving in two runs.
Smith (19-7) suffered the loss, giving up three hits and no earned runs in five and 2/3 innings, while Wooldridge improves to 16-14 with the victory in relief.