It took 10 innings, but it was well worth the wait, as Liberty broke through with two runs in the 10th, backing Julia DiMartino's four-hit shutout as the Lady Flames posted their first-ever NCAA Regional game victory, 2-0, over No. 24/24 Hofstra, Friday at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.
Liberty (48-12), making its third NCAA postseason appearance in program history, had been 0-4 in Regional play all-time heading into today. The Lady Flames pushed their winning streak to 18 games, dating back to April 14. With the win, Liberty advances to tomorrow's winner's bracket final at 2 p.m. against the winner of tonight's game between UNCG and No. 11/10 South Carolina.
Tonight's win was Liberty's seventh victory over a Top 25 program in softball, and first since beating No. 6 Michigan, March 24, 2007. Hofstra (40-13) falls to the loser's bracket and will play tomorrow in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m.
For the game, Liberty outhit the Pride, 6-4. The Lady Flames committed three errors, compared to two for Hofstra. The Pride left nine runners on base, while Liberty stranded six.
DiMartino (28-7) tossed the first NCAA Regional victory and shutout in program history, her 10th of the season and program-record 24th career blanking. She allowed just four hits, walking two and striking out seven. DiMartino has set Liberty's single-season program record with 219 strikeouts.
Sarah Cornell (23-8) drew the loss, allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits, striking out five and walking two in nine innings. Sophie Dandola pitched one scoreless frame.
Kaitlin McFarland went 2-for-4 with the first NCAA Regional homer in program history, one run scored and one RBI. Madison Via batted 2-for-4, hitting the first NCAA postseason triple in program history and scoring once.
Hofstra recorded four singles, all from the different players.
Liberty broke through in the 10th, as McFarland hit a leadoff homer to left center. Via followed by splitting the left-center gap for a triple. Dandola came on in relief of Cornell and struck out pinch hitter Deidra See. A fielder's choice left runners on the corners before a throwing error allowed Via to score from third. Dandola escaped further damage, but not before Liberty led, 2-0.
DiMartino put the finishing touches on the four-hit gem, pitching a 1-2-3 10th to send Liberty forward in the winner's bracket.
Earlier in the game, McFarland lined a one-out single to left in the top of the second inning, the first hit of the game. She went to second on a groundout before Hoffman grounded to third to end the rally.
DiMartino struck out the side in the bottom of the second, keeping the game scoreless.
Jasmeen Click drew a four-pitch walk with one out in the third. Autumn Bishop then bounced into a 4-3 double play.
The Liberty right-hander retired the first 11 batters she faced in the game before Brittany Allocca broke up her no-hit bid with a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sarah Edwards then singled down the left-field line, going to second on a throw. Courtney Scarpato popped out to the pitcher for the third out.
Cornell pitched her third straight three-batter inning, as the Flames went in order in the fifth frame.
Autumn Bishop drew a two-out walk in the top of the sixth. Amber Bishop reached on an error, but Autumn Bishop got thrown out between second and third for the final out.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Kristin Hallam bounced a single up the middle. Brielle Pietrafesa followed by lining a single to left. Autumn Bishop made a diving catch on the infield before Edwards reached on an error. Courtney Scarpato sent a liner down the left-field that Hoffman snared with a snowcone catch to keep the game scoreless.
Nikki Michalowski reached on an error to start the bottom of the seventh. After one out, an error allowed Musa to reach. DiMartino walked Michaela Transue, loading the bases with one out. A lineout and a groundout sent the game into extra innings.
Via dropped a single into left field to start the eighth inning. However, Cornell retired the next three batters.
Amber Bishop lined a one-out single up the middle in the top of the ninth. Jaclyn Amader flied out and Sarah Robertson grounded out.
Michalowski walked to begin in the bottom of the ninth. A fielder's choice left a runner on first with one out before DiMartino got out of the inning.