Liberty softball claimed its first postseason championship in program history, topping Lamar, 3-1, in a winner-take-all final game of the 2017 National Invitational Softball Championship, held at Liberty Softball Stadium.
The Lady Flames (46-24) won five straight elimination games this week, taking the championship trophy from a field of 26 at the beginning of the tournament. Liberty eliminated Cal Poly, Illinois State, Kennesaw State and Lamar in that order this week to gain the title. Lamar (34-31) finishes as the inaugural NISC runner-up, falling twice to Liberty today. Liberty defeated Kennesaw State, 13-5, earlier today, before downing Lamar twice, 8-5 and 3-1.
Beginning with the NISC Regional, Liberty went 8-2 in the tournament as a whole.
Today's game was called during the bottom of the sixth inning, after Lamar had scored four run in the top of the frame to take a 5-3 lead. With two outs in the home half and two Liberty runners on, the skies opened, worsening the field that had already taken considerable rain over the last 24 hours.
Under NCAA rules, the result reverted to the last completed inning, giving Liberty the championship.
After a 1-2-3 Liberty 5th and with the Lady Flames leading, 3-1, the rains picked up in intensity during the sixth. With two on and one out, McDowell hit an RBI double to left. After a Brittany Rodriguez lineout, DiMartino walked Baca to load the bases. Sable Hankins then singled, with three runs scoring on the play to give Lamar a 5-3 advantage.
With weather and field conditions worsening, Anissa Rodriguez fanned Sarah Robertson and Rylee Reynolds before issuing walks to Kaitlin McFarland and Jasmeen Click. With Autumn Bishop stepping into the batter's box, the skies opened up, leading to a 19-minute delay. After the delay, umpires ruled to call the game, and the tournament directors awarded Liberty the championship.
Liberty junior outfielder Tori Zavodny was named Tournament MVP, and was joined on the all-tournament team by freshman second baseman Amber Bishop and redshirt senior pitcher Kenzie Friesen. Lamar was represented by Ciara Luna, Ashley McDowell and Brynn Baca.
DiMartino (22-10) earned the win, allowing one run on three hits, walking four and striking out four. She ties Leslie Inge (2000) for the most wins in a single season in program history.
Laura Napoli (11-12) drew the loss, giving up three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out one in 3 1/3 innings pitched. Anissa Rodriguez tossed 1 2/3 innings of hitless softball, fanning two.
DiMartino walked a pair of batters with two outs in the first, but came back to strike out Kelly Meeuwsen and end the rally.
Deidra See reached on an error to start the bottom of the second. McFarland drew a walk with two outs. However, Sarah Robertson was caught straying off second for the third out.
Lamar loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning, as Brittany Rodriguez started the rally with a bunt single. After a fielding error, DiMartino walked Hankins. Meeuwsen then flied to left, keeping the game scoreless.
The Lady Flames entered the scoring column with a three-run third inning. Click reached on an error to lead off. She was thrown out trying to go from first to third on an Autumn Bishop single. Amber Bishop singled up the middle before a fielder's choice left the bases loaded. Taylor then lifted a fly ball to right, plating Jaclyn Amader via sacrifice fly. See followed with a two-run double to left center for a 3-0 advantage.
The Cardinals broke through against DiMartino in the top of the fifth, staging a two-ouot rally. Baca singled, going to second on a throwing error. Hankins then walked, and Meeuwsen lined an RBI single up the middle, making it 3-1. Henderson flied to right for the third out.
2017 NISC All-Tournament Team Cal Poly Sierra Hyland Crimson Kaiser Chelsea Convissar Weber State Kirtlyn Bohling Takesha Saltern KyRae Kogianes Illinois State Allison Spence Sarah Finck Riley Strandgard Kennesaw State Alley Cutting Courtney Sutter Noelle Winkles Lamar Ciara Luna Ashley McDowell Brynn Baca Liberty Kenzie Friesen Amber Bishop Tori Zavodny - Tournament MVP