Liberty turned a 5-4, seventh-inning deficit into an 8-5 victory, using a late four-run outburst to down Lamar and force a winner-take-all NISC final, Wednesday at Liberty Softball Stadium.
The two teams are currently playing a winner-take-all final to determine the NISC champion. Liberty (45-24) has won four straight elimination games to get to this point, while Lamar (34-30) is 3-1 at the event.
Down to its last three outs, Liberty scored four runs on three hits in the top of the seventh, capitalizing on three Lamar errors. Jasmeen Click reached on an error. Autumn Bishop singled to left. A fielder's choice erased Click at home. Tori Zavodny then launched a three-run bomb to straightaway center, giving Liberty a 7-5 lead. Alexia Taylor then walked, and scored when Deidra See doubled to left center. Anissa Rodriguez came on to get the final two outs.
Julia DiMartino retired the final eight batters she faced, wrapping up the win and setting up a winner-take-all final.
Autumn Bishop went 3-for-4 with a double and one run scored, while Zavodny batted 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBI. Click batted 2-for-3, while Amber Bishop went 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, two RBI and one run scored.
For Lamar, Brittany Rodriguez, Brynn Baca and Sable Hankins all recorded two hits.
DiMartino (21-10) earned the win with three innings of one-hit relief. Liberty starter Kenzie Friesen lasted 1/3 of an inning, allowing one run on three hits. Chase Cassady pitched 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on five hits, walking two and striking out five.
Ciara Luna (19-18) drew the loss, allowing eight runs (three earned) on 10 hits, striking out one and walking two in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Lamar scored once in the bottom of the first, rallying with one out. Brittany Rodriguez hit an infield single. Baca then lined a single to right center with Rodriguez racing home after the relay throw got away from shortstop Sarah Robertson. After an infield single, Cassady came on in relief of Friesen. She walked Kelly Meeuwsen to load the bases, but struck out the next two, keeping it 1-0.
The Lady Flames' offense came to life in the third inning, scoring twice on three hits in the frame. Click bunted for a hit with one out. Autumn Bishop then lined a double to the left-center gap, with Click getting thrown out at home after trying to score from first on the play. Amber Bishop then hit a game-tying RBI single. Zavodny reached on a three-base error, pushing Bishop across for a 2-1 Liberty advantage.
Lamar answered with three runs in the third inning. Baca walked with one out. After two outs, Meeuwsen singled up the middle, and an errant throw to third allowed Baca to score. Henderson then gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead by doubling to left center. Corina Thornton doubled down the right-field line, making it 4-2 before being thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.
Kaitlin McFarland reached on an error to start the fifth. Click then bounced a single to left. A groundout sent the runners to second and third. Bishop then lofted a sacrifice fly to right, bringing Liberty to within 4-3. Zavodny tied the game with an RBI single to center.
The first two Cardinals hit singles in the bottom of the fifth, leading to Julia DiMartino's entry into the pitching circle. Hankins singled up the middle, plating Rodriguez for a 5-4 Lamar edge. Baca was erased at third on the scoring play. DiMartino got the next two batters to pop out.
Taylor led off the sixth with a sharp single up the middle. Rylee Reynolds drew a two-out walk. McFarland sent a high drive to the wall in center, but Brittany Rodriguez made a leaping catch to maintain Lamar's 5-4 advantage.