Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Liberty softball team battled back to within one run before falling to Weber State, 3-2, during Game 1 of the 2017 NISC Championship Round at Liberty Softball Stadium, Sunday evening.
With the win, Weber State (37-20-1) advances to face top-seeded Kennesaw State in a winner's bracket game, tomorrow at 1 p.m. Liberty (41-24) will compete tomorrow at 4 p.m. in an elimination game against the loser of tomorrow's Illinois State vs. Lamar contest.
After recording just two hits as a team in the first six innings, Liberty got singles from Alexia Taylor and Sarah Robertson to start the seventh. Deidra See then singled up the middle, with both runners scoring on an error by Wildcat second baseman Sadie Blacker. See went to second on the error. With a runner on second and nobody out, Taylor Hoffman struck out and Kaitlin McFarland lined out sharply to first base. Back-to-back walks to Rylee Reynolds and Autumn Bishop loaded the bases for Amber Bishop, who flied out to center to end the game.
Both teams managed just five hits during a pitchers' duel, while Weber State committed two errors.
Rae Gall went 1-for-2 with a homer and two RBI for the Wildcats, while KyRae Kogianes batted 2-for-2 with a double and one run scored.
Five different Lady Flames recorded one hit each, with Amber Bishop hitting a double. Tori Zavodny's stolen base gave Liberty a program-record 94 steals on the season, breaking the previous record of 93, set in 1996.
Kirtlyn Bohling (22-12) went the distance, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking five.
Chase Cassady (6-8) drew the loss, giving up three runs on three hits, tossing five strikeouts in four innings of work. Cassady saw a 22 2/3 scoreless-inning streak end tonight. Julia DiMartino pitched the final three innings, allowing two hits and walking one.
Zavodny drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first before stealing second. Taylor then flied out to deep right for the third out.
Weber State got its first baserunner when Cassady hit Kogianes to start the third inning. Cassady then retired the side on a popout and two flyouts.
The Wildcats went ahead in the top of the fourth. Landi Hawker led off with an infield single, the first hit of the game for either team. Gall gave WSU a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot to left center.
Liberty tried to rally in the bottom of the fourth, as Amber Bishop lined a leadoff double down the left field line. A groundout sent her to third with one away. Robertson drew a two-out walk. With runners on the corners, Amber Bishop was erased at home on a double-steal play.
The guests added to their lead with a fifth-inning tally. Kogianes led off by roping a double to right center. DiMartino came on in relief of Cassady, unleashing a wild pitch. After a pair of foulouts, Takesha Saltern chopped a single to left, scoring Kogianes for a 3-0 advantage.
See reached on an error to start the home half of the fifth. After two outs, Jasmeen Click fouled out to a diving Kogianes near the home dugout.
Weber State nearly added to its lead in the seventh, as Mackenzi Corta drew a leadoff walk and Kogianes bunted for a hit. A sac bunt sent the runners to second and third. However, pinch hitter Riana Splinter hit into a double play to end the inning.