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No. 19 Georgia Tech Edges Liberty, 4-3
The Lady Flames didn't make it easy for the 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets, leading Georgia Tech by a run for three innings before the ACC regular season champions clawed back for a 4-3 victory in an elimination game at the NCAA Knoxville Regional, Saturday.
The Lady Flames outhit the Yellow Jackets, 7-6, and committed no errors compared to two for Georgia Tech.
Liberty's season concludes with a 30-30 mark, while the Yellow Jackets improve to 45-11 on the year.
Sammi Shivock recorded Liberty's first hit of the tournament in the top of the first, ripping a one-out single up the middle. But she was forced out at second on the next play, when Meredith Crisante reached on a fielder's choice grounder to second. Kelly Strickland then grounded out to shortstop to end the at-bat.
The Yellow Jackets put a run on the board in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead. Ashley Thomas led off with walk amidst three illegal pitches by Liberty hurler Tiffani Smith. But catcher Keely McMillon sent her back to the dugout on the next play, throwing her out at second on a steal attempt.
After 2011 ACC Player of the Year Kelsi Weseman grounded out to second, Kristine Priebe got Georgia Tech on the board with a solo homer to left.
The Lady Flames took charge in the top of the second. Katie Zavodny and Jenny Law ripped back-to-back singles, and one out later, McMillon drew a walk to load the bases. Next, a 13-pitch at-bat by Amber DePasquale led to an RBI single, as Zavodny came home to score Liberty's first run of the tournament and tie the game.
The Lady Flames didn't stop there, taking advantage of a Georgia Tech miscue to plate another run. On a grounder by Bensinger, third baseman Alysha Rudnik fielded the ball and tagged third base for an out, but when she tried to make the play at home, catcher Jessica Weaver dropped the ball, allowing Law to score for a 2-1 Liberty lead.
The Yellow Jackets put a runner on in the bottom of the second when Rudnik singled to right with one out. During the next at-bat after another illegal pitch on Smith was called, Liberty head coach Paul Wetmore brought in Katrina Johnson in relief.
Johnson kept Georgia Tech from starting a rally, fielding a grounder from Danielle Dike and forcing Rudnik out at third. Weaver then flied out deep to left to end the inning.
Johnson and the Lady Flames defense continued to stop the Yellow Jackets, coming up with two straight three-up, three-down innings in the third and fourth frames.
However, Georgia Tech was able to finally respond in the bottom of the fifth to regain a one-run lead. With one out, Danielle Dike drew a walk, and moved to second when Weaver grounded out to second. Pinch runner Christy Jones scored from second on the next play, when pinch hitter Hope Rush singled through the left side to tie the game, 2-all.
The Yellow Jackets didn't stop there. Leadoff batter Thomas walked and Wesemen drove in another run with the same single through the left side, as Georgia Tech took a 3-2 advantage.
Liberty failed to respond in the top of the sixth. Law struck out, West grounded out and McMillon lined out for a 1-2-3 at-bat.
The Lady Flames ran into more trouble in the bottom of the sixth. Kate Kuzma led off with a single to left and Rudnik was hit by a pitch. Dike then singled up the middle for an RBI, giving the Yellow Jackets an insurance run for a 4-2 lead.
In Liberty's last chance to score, DePasquale led off by grounding out to second. But Bensinger gave the team a baserunner, drawing a walk to bring up Shivock. The freshman came up with a clutch hit, lining a single to right field to put runners on first and second with one out.
But Crisante flied out to shallow center field for the second out, bringing up Strickland. The junior second baseman didn't disappoint, busting a single up the middle to bring Bensinger home for a 4-3 score. Shivock advanced to third and Strickland made it to second on the throw home.
However, the Liberty rally was cut short, as pinch hitter Jill Stephens struck out, ending the game with a 4-3 Georgia Tech victory.
Shivock was 2-for-4 for the Lady Flames, while Strickland and DePasquale each recorded one hit and drove in a run.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Priebe, who was 1-for-2 with a home run.
Johnson ends her sophomore campaign with a 15-15 record, after giving up five hits and three earned runs while striking out two batters in 4.2 innings of work.
Lindsey Anderson picked up the win, improving to 13-1 on the year. She gave up two hits and one earned run while fanning nine Liberty batters in 4.2 innings.
Georgia Tech will now face the No. 14 national seed Tennessee to determine who will play in tomorrow's regional final against Oklahoma State.