The Liberty softball team continues its rise to national prominence, making a splash in the 2018 NCAA Columbia Regional. The Lady Flames qualified for the Regional final, one in a list of many program firsts and records achieved this season as Liberty broke its single-season program record for wins for the second year in a row. Liberty posted a 49-14 overall record, including 18-3 in Big South play, as the Lady Flames wrapped up their second Big South regular-season title in a row. This year, Liberty played its best down the stretch, sweeping through the 2018 Big South Softball Championship to claim the team's third NCAA Regional appearance and first since 2011. Liberty then made a statement in the NCAA Columbia Regional, winning its first two games (2-0 in 10 innings over No. 24/24 Hofstra, 3-1 over No. 11/10 South Carolina) before falling twice to South Carolina in the Regional Final. Liberty's win over Hofstra was the first NCAA Regional victory in program history, and first win over a nationally-ranked team since 2007. The Lady Flames also qualified for the NCAA Regional Final for the first time, and became the first Big South team to defeat a Regional host. The Lady Flames won a program-record 19 straight games, beginning on April 14 and ending in the NCAA Columbia Regional Final. It was the longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I softball at the time, and tied for the eighth longest in the nation at any point in the season. During the streak, Liberty outscored opponents, 95-17, tossing nine shutouts while also outhitting teams, .331-.183 This season saw Liberty set or tie 11 program single-season records. Their school-record 49 wins tied for the seventh most in NCAA Division I softball this season. They have posted back-to-back 40-win seasons for the first time in program history. Liberty's 95 combined wins from 2017 and 2018 are tied for the ninth most of any Division I softball program over that span. During the final USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll, Liberty was listed among others receiving votes, as their 17 votes were the most received in a single poll in program history. Liberty's final RPI of 29 this season was its best RPI at any point in any season so far. Liberty showed a propensity for taking the extra base, setting program records with 105 doubles and 100 stolen bases. The Lady Flames finished second to national champion Florida State (115) for the national lead in doubles, and joined the Seminoles as the only two Division I teams to record 100 or more doubles and 100 or more stolen bases this season. The Lady Flames' pitching staff had another dominant season, posting a 2.04 ERA and 19 shutouts, one shutout shy of the program record of 20, set in 1999. Four different Lady Flames (Julia DiMartino – program-record 10; Chase Cassady – 5; Elizabeth Engler – 2; Emily Kirby – 1) posted at least one shutout. In the final 23 games of the season, Liberty recorded a 0.97 ERA as a team. For the year, Liberty went 6-1 against ACC opponents, including two wins each against North Carolina and Virginia and one win against both NC State and Virginia Tech. Liberty is 11-2 versus the ACC in the last two seasons. Liberty set a program record with 18 straight home wins to end the season, the third longest active home winning streak in NCAA Division I softball. The Lady Flames also started off league play at 10-0, posting a program-record 10-game conference winning streak on the way. The Lady Flames placed a Big South-record nine players on the all-conference squad, including four first-team selections, four second-team choices and one honorable mention performer. Also, for the second year in a row, Julia DiMartino was named Big South Pitcher of the Year and Dot Richardson was named Big South Coach of the Year. DiMartino was joined on the first team by Amber Bishop, Autumn Bishop and Madison Via. Liberty received three NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region selections, as DiMartino and Amber Bishop were named to the first team and Autumn Bishop was voted to the second team. Dot Richardson's coaching staff was named the NFCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Coaching Staff of the Year. Liberty's five seniors (Jessica Cicerchia, Madi Clarke, Cassie Gingerich, Alexia Taylor and Tori Zavodny) graduated as the winningest senior class in program history. During their time at Liberty, the Lady Flames won 155 games. Taylor finished her career ranked in the top 10 in program history in nine statistical categories, while Zavodny, just the second four-time all-conference player in program history, is top 10 in seven categories.
Program Single-Season Records Set this Season Team Doubles (105) Stolen Bases (100) Sacrifice Flies (21) Fielding Percentage (.977) Wins (49) Winning Percentage (.777) Home Wins (23) Regular-Season Wins (44) Conference Wins (18) Season-Ending RPI (29) Most Games over .500 at end of season (35) Overall Winning Streak (19 – April 14, 2018 through May 19, 2018) Home Winning Streak (18 – March 10, 2018 through present) Conference Winning Streak (10 – March 17, 2018 through April 6, 2018) Individual Autumn Bishop: Doubles (25), Sacrifice Flies (7) Julia DiMartino: Wins (29), Saves (6), Strikeouts (230), Shutouts (10), Pitching Appearances (47), Complete Games (31) Career Records Reached in 2018: Julia DiMartino (2016-Present): Wins (68), Strikeouts (592), Shutouts (24) Alexia Taylor (2015-18): Sacrifice Flies (10)
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