Complete Game Notes 2017 NISC champion Liberty opens its 2018 season by competing in the Dot Richardson Invitational in Clermont, Fla., Friday through Sunday. The Lady Flames went 5-0 at this event to start the 2017 season, winning the final four games all by run-rule. Liberty will begin the weekend on Friday with an 11 a.m. game against Fairleigh Dickinson, while also competing against Toledo, Detroit Mercy, Chattanooga and Morgan State.
Led by 2017 Big South Coach of the Year Dot Richardson, the Lady Flames return most of the roster that helped Liberty set 22 team single-season program records last season, including a 46-24 overall record. The Lady Flames won the Big South regular-season title, before finishing second at the Big South Softball Championship.
Junior Julia DiMartino, 2017 Big South Pitcher of the Year, is back after going 22-10 last season. She was named 2018 Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
2017 Big South Freshman of the Year Amber Bishop was named 2018 Big South Preseason Player of the Year after setting nine Liberty freshman records last season.
Liberty's other top returnees include: sophomore Autumn Bishop (1st team All-Region), senior Tori Zavodny (2nd team All-Region; NISC MVP), and 2017 second-team all-conference selections in senior Alexia Taylor and juniors Jasmeen Click and Sarah Robertson.
Quick Hits - The Lady Flames begin their 25th season as an NCAA Division I softball program.
- Liberty has won 11 out of its last 13 games played in the state of Florida.
- Liberty is 13-18-1 in season openers, including 11-12-1 in its NCAA Division I era.
- Liberty placed a program-record four players on NFCA All-Region teams last year.
- The Lady Flames were predicted to finish second in the Big South preseason poll.
- The 2017 Lady Flames led the Big South in both batting average (.305) and ERA (2.63).
- This is the fourth straight year that Liberty will compete in the Dot Richardson Invitational. The Lady Flames are 10-4 all-time at the invitational.
NISC Champions Liberty won its first-ever postseason championship in softball, capturing the 2017 National Invitational Softball Championship title. The Lady Flames won the NISC Regional Round at home, defeating Ohio, 4-3 in the Regional Championship. After losing to Weber State in the opening game of the National Round, the Lady Flames won five straight elimination games, including three on the final day. Liberty claimed the winner-take-all final, 3-1, over Lamar on May 24.
Dating back to the 2017 Big South Softball Championship, Liberty went 8-1 in postseason elimination games.
Junior Tori Zavodny was named the NISC MVP, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Amber Bishop (2B) and pitcher Kenzie Friesen.
On the Streaks The Lady Flames carry over a five-game winning streak from last season. Only defending national champion Oklahoma (11 games) and Penn (six) ended the 2017 season with more consecutive wins than Liberty's five.
Liberty went on a program-record 13-game winning streak, from April 2 through 18. That streak, which included wins over Presbyterian (3x), Gardner-Webb (3x), Campbell (2x), Hampton (2x), Virginia (2x) and Virginia Tech, saw Liberty outscore opponents, 80-6, while tossing nine shutouts. The previous program record, a 12-game winning streak, was set from March 10-21, 2010.
Liberty tossed six straight shutouts, from April 7-14, and also held opponents scoreless for 44 straight innings. Both streaks set new program records.
In the postseason, Liberty pitching went on a 30 1/3 inning scoreless streak, from the third inning of the Big South Championship game, into the 12th inning of Liberty's 1-0 loss to Ohio.
Conference Regular-Season Champs Liberty earned its fourth ever Big South regular-season softball title, and second outright, in 2017. The Lady Flames also won the Big South regular-season championship in 1999 (tied with East Carolina), 2000 and 2007 (tied with Winthrop).
In conference play, Liberty led the Big South with a .326 batting average and 33 steals. The Lady Flames' staff posted a 2.24 ERA and shutouts in league play.
Big Comebacks Four times last year, Liberty overcame a seventh-inning deficit en route to the win. The most important came during the first game of the NISC Championship Round final against Lamar.
Record-Setting Liberty set the following single-season team program records last year: Games (70), wins (46), conference wins (16 - tied), batting average (.305), at bats (1,842), runs scored (370), hits (561), RBI (310), doubles (92), walks (182), stolen bases (96), sacrifice flies (16 - tied), putouts (1,372), innings pitched (457.1), consecutive games shutout streak (6), consecutive innings shutout streak (44), home wins (22), overall winning streak (13), run-rule victories (13), double-digit scoring games (12), consecutive double-digit scoring games (4), consecutive run-rule victories (4).
Three Games in One Day Twice last year, the Lady Flames had to play three games in one day. The first time happened on the next-to-last day of the Big South Tournament, May 13, where Liberty fell to Longwood in the semifinal before downing Winthrop and Longwood in elimination contests later that night. On May 24, Liberty won three straight elimination games, against Kennesaw State and Lamar (twice) to win the NISC title. Kaitlin McFarland caught all three games both days.
Regional Recognition Liberty placed a program-record four players on the 2017 NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region Team.
Freshman Autumn Bishop earned first-team mention as utility/non-pitcher, while sophomore pitcher Julia DiMartino and junior outfielder Tori Zavodny were voted to the second team. Freshman second baseman Amber Bishop was tabbed to the third team.
The 2013 season marked the last time that Liberty was represented on the All-Region Team, as Katie Zavodny earned first-team mention and Sammi Shivock was named to the second team.
Bring on the Awards Liberty received a conference-record 17 postseason awards on May 9, 2017, including four players each on the Big South All-Conference first team, second team and all-freshman team.
Dot Richardson was named Big South Coach of the Year for the first time. She is the first Liberty softball coach to receive the award since Paul Wetmore in 2000.
Julia DiMartino became the second Big South Pitcher of the Year in program history, joining Tiffani Smith (2010).
Amber Bishop is the fifth Liberty player to be voted Big South Freshman of the Year, and first since current teammate Alexia Taylor in 2015.
Kenzie Friesen is the second Big South Scholar-Athlete in program history, joining Megan Robinson (2015).
Sister Act The Bishop twins, Amber and Autumn, played a major role for the Lady Flames as freshmen last year. Both were voted Big South Freshman of the Week three times each.
Amber batted .373 while leading the Big South in hits (85), runs scored (55), RBI (66) and total bases (141). She set nine program freshman records and was named a top 25 finalist for the NFCA National Freshman of the Year. She recorded a team-leading 27 multiple-hit games and 21 multiple-RBI contests.
Autumn was an NFCA All-Region first team utility player, batting .381 with 15 doubles and a .473 on-base percentage. She hit .481 in 10 conference games played, despite missing a month due to injury.
Shutting the Door Julia DiMartino, the 2017 Big South Pitcher of the Year, has been named to the Big South All-Conference first team each of her first two seasons. Last year, she led the Big South with a program-record-tying 22 wins. She also led the conference in shutouts (7), ERA (1.91) and strikeouts (175). She pitched 48 straight scoreless innings, a stretch that included five straight complete-game shutouts. In conference play, she led the Big South with 11 wins, 74 strikeouts and four shutouts.
Chase Cassady returns to the circle after a strong finish to the 2017 season. During the 2017 NISC Regional, she went 1-0 with a .109 opponents' batting average and 19 strikeouts. She tossed Liberty's first-ever postseason shutout, a three-hitter over UNCW.