No. 4 seed Liberty posted a 7-2 victory over ninth-seeded Gardner-Webb, on Friday at Amanda Littlejohn Stadium, knocking the Runnin' Bulldogs out of the 2015 Big South Softball Championship.
Liberty (29-29) advances and will meet the loser of today's Coastal Carolina vs. Presbyterian game, tonight at 9:30 p.m. Gardner-Webb's season ends at 15-35 after being ousted from the conference tournament by Liberty for the second year in a row. Liberty is now 4-0 all-time against Gardner-Webb in conference tournament play.
The Lady Flames outhit Gardner-Webb, 10-4, with five different Liberty batters recording two hits apiece. Liberty left 10 runners on base, compared to four for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Alexia Taylor went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, good for her team-best 20th multiple-hit game this season. Tori Zavodny batted 2-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored. Megan Robinson and Katie Han both went 2-for-4, with Robinson scoring two runs. Kelby Allen (2-for-3) recorded two RBI. Allen, Robinson and Blair Lawrence stole one base each.
Gardner-Webb's Amanda Gomes batted 2-for-3, while Savannah Burns went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer.
Chandler Ball allowed two runs on four hits, striking out five while not walking a batter. At 20-11, she becomes the fourth Lady Flame all-time with a 20-win season, and first since Tiffani Smith in 2010.
Summer Darnell (11-15) drew the loss for the Runnin' Bulldogs, yielding seven runs (five earned) on nine hits with five walks and four strikeouts in five innings pitched. Ashley Wark worked one inning, giving up one hit and one walk.
Kellie Beres reached on a two-base error to lead off the game. She went to third on a wild pitch with one out, but was later thrown out on a fielder's choice. Ball struck out Scarlett Harris for the third out.
Taylor hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the first. Darnell hit Madison Kotchey and walked Allen with two outs, loading the bases for Mickey Loveridge. A walk to Loveridge gave Liberty a 1-0 lead. Han fouled out, leaving three runners on base.
The Runnin' Bulldogs saw a scoring chance go by the boards in the second inning, when Robinson snared a line drive, and threw to second for an inning-ending double play.
Jamie Crisp reached second base on an error to start Liberty's second at bat. Zavodny drew a two-out walk, but was caught stealing to end the rally.
Ball struck out two Runnin' Bulldogs during a 1-2-3 third, while Darnell fanned Loveridge for the final out in the home half of the inning.
The Lady Flames added three runs in the bottom of the fourth. After an error put runners on the corners, Lawrence stole second. Taylor singled on the infield, with Crisp and Lawrence scoring on the play before Taylor was thrown out at second. Zavodny followed with a solo homer, making it 4-0.
Gardner-Webb broke through in the fifth inning. Megan Champion singled to right with one out, becoming her team's first basrunner since the second stanza. Burns then homered to left, slicing the deficit in half, to 4-2.
Allen singled and stole second with one out during Liberty's fifth time up. Han then came through with a two-out RBI single to extend Liberty's advantage to 5-2. Darnell walked the bases loaded before fanning Taylor to escape the jam.
Back-to-back singles by Zavodny and Robinson put runners on the corners to start the sixth. Wark then came on in relief of Darnell, walking Kotchey to load the bases. Allen made it 7-2 with a two-run single. Wark retired the next three batters, bringing Gardner-Webb to the plate for the final time.
A pair of Liberty errors helped keep Gardner-Webb's seventh inning alive, leading to a bases-loaded situation. Ball pitched out of trouble with a strikeout and groundout to seal the win.