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Liberty Wins Big South Championship Title with Victory over Radford
Senior Tiffani Smith held the No. 1 seed Highlanders to just four hits, Saturday afternoon, as the No. 2 seed Liberty Lady Flames took a 3-1 victory over Radford to claim the 2011 Big South Championship title.
The championship marks Liberty's second title in program history. Their first came in 2002.
Liberty is now 30-28 on the year, while Radford's season ends at 38-21. The Highlanders had won the last two Big South titles in a row.
The Lady Flames will now move on to the 2011 NCAA Division I Softball Regionals, receiving an automatic bid for winning the tournament. The location and opponent will be announced tomorrow on ESPNU at 10 p.m. (EST).
Smith was named the 2011 Big South Championship Most Valuable Player, while Katrina Johnson, Sammi Shivock, and Meredith Crisante were named to the all-tournament team.
"Tiffani pitched really well, and we were able to take the lead with some key hits," said head coach Paul Wetmore. "Tiffani is a veteran, and she came up big. But it was a total team effort and we battled right to the end. Radford is a great team and great team and had a great year, but today was our day."
Liberty jumped on the base paths early, as Ashley Bensinger reached on a throwing error by Radford shortstop Kristin Shifflett. Next, Jenny Law was hit by a pitch on a 0-2 count. But the Highlanders recovered, recording three straight outs to get out of the jam.
After a quiet Radford at-bat, the Lady Flames took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Katie Zavodny led off with a slap single up the middle and then stole second. One out later, Keely McMillon drew a walk, and Amber Depasquale loaded the bases with a blooper single to shallow center field.
Bensinger drove in the game's first run on the next play, ripping a deep sac fly to center field to give Liberty the lead.
After another hitless Radford at-bat, the Lady Flames put a runner in scoring position in the top of the third. Meredith Crisante beat the throw on an infield single, and moved to second on a sac bunt by Kaylee West. But Kelly Strickland flied out to left, and Zavodny grounded out to third for the third out.
The Lady Flames added two runs to their lead in the top of the fourth. Sammi Shivock scored the first with her second solo homer of the weekend. Then, with two outs, Bensinger ripped a stand-up double to right center before advancing to third on a wild pitch. She came home when Jenny Law singled to right field for a 3-0 Liberty lead.
The Highlanders recorded their first run on their first hit of the contest in the bottom of the fifth. Lauren Williams led off with an infield single, and two outs later, scored when Taylor Cunningham brought her home with a single up the middle to bring the score to 3-1.
Williams' hit marked the first hit off of Liberty pitcher Tiffani Smith in her last 12 innings pitched.
Radford made the final inning exciting, as Jessie Hutchens led off with a single to right field. After Williams struck out, Shifflett reached on a base hit through the left side to put runners on first and second with one out. But Nichole Beall popped out, and Cunningham grounded to shortstop, and Shivock forced out pinch runner Morgan Eye at third to end the game.
Law led the Lady Flames, batting 2-for-3 with an RBI. Bensinger and Shivock were each 1-for-3 and drove in a run.
Cunningham led the Highlanders, driving in Radford's only run of the game.
Smith capped off a stellar tournament, giving up four hits and one earned run while striking out three batters to even her record at 12-12 on the season.
Radford pitcher Chelsea Kelley gave up six hits and three earned runs and tallied no strikeouts in 3.2 innings of work.
2011 Big South Championship All-Tournament Team
Stacy Snellings, Coastal Carolina
Ashley Bagwell, Coastal Carolina
Samantha Meenaghan, Gardner-Webb
Cindy Boomhower, Gardner-Webb
Chelsea Kelley, Radford
Kristen Shifflett, Radford
Taylor Cunningham, Radford
Katrina Johnson, Liberty
Sammi Shivock, Liberty
Tiffani Smith, Liberty (MVP)
Meredith Crisante, Liberty