No. 24 Liberty Sees Postseason Run End in 8-5 Regional Final Setback to No. 21 JMU
Liberty built a 3-1 lead against James Madison on Saturday before the Dukes struck for a five-run fifth inning on the way to an 8-5 win over the Lady Flames in the NCAA Knoxville Regional final, Sunday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
James Madison (37-1) extended its winning streak to 27 games, the longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I softball. In the process, the Dukes advance to their third NCAA Super Regional and second in a row.
The Lady Flames (44-15) entered Sunday's game needing to defeat the Dukes twice today to advance to their first-ever Super Regional. Liberty went 2-2 at this week's Knoxville Regional, eliminating Eastern Kentucky and No. 9 seed Tennessee yesterday and falling twice to JMU.
Liberty has qualified for the Regional final in each of its last two trips to the NCAA Tournament, in 2018 and again this year.
Liberty – 1st INNING – Griffin homers, Canetto scores, 2-0
James Madison – 2nd INNING – Naujokas triples, Newton scores, 2-1
Liberty – 3rd INNING – Canetto homers, 3-1
James Madison – 5th INNING – Phillips singles, advances on error, Thress scores, 3-2
James Madison – 5th INNING – Jubas singles, Phillips and Sullivan score, 4-3
James Madison – 5th INNING – Alexander singles, Gordon scores, 5-3
James Madison – 5th INNING – Newton flies out, sacrifice fly, Jubas scores, 6-3
Liberty – 5th INNING – Canetto singles, Bishop scores, 6-4
James Madison – 6th INNING – Bernett homers, Meeks scores, 8-4
Liberty – 7th INNING – Bishop-Riley Homers, 8-5
– JMU outhit the Lady Flames 11-7, with Liberty committing two errors. The Lady Flames left four runners on base while the Dukes stranded four.
– Liberty's three homers were the most for the Lady Flames in an NCAA Regional game.
– CAA Pitcher of the Year Odicci Alexander (14-0) earned the win, allowing four runs on five hits, striking out six in 5 1/3 total innings. Alexander also batted 2-for-4 with an RBI. Alissa Humphrey allowed one run on two hits, walking two and striking out three in 1 2/3 innings of relief.
– Megan Johnson (3-3) drew the loss, yielding two runs on one hit, walking one in 1/3 of an inning. Liberty starter Karlie Keeney allowed five runs on seven hits, with one strikeout in 4 2/3 innings total. Emily Kirby gave up one run on two hits in 1/3 of an inning, while McKenzie Wagoner pitched 1 2/3 innings of one-hit relief.
– Lauren Bernett went 1-for-3 with a homer and two RBI. Sara Jubas batted 1-for-4 with two RBI.
– For Liberty, Kara Canetto went 3-for-3 with a homer, two RBI and two runs scored. Amber Bishop-Riley hit her ASUN-leading 18th homer of the season, while Denay Griffin hit a two-run homer.
– Liberty built a 3-1 lead, getting a two-out two-run homer from Griffin in the first and a two-out solo shot from Canetto in the third.
– The Dukes scored five runs on five hits in the fifth inning, taking a 6-3 lead while chasing Keeney and relievers Johnson and Kirby.
– JMU boosted its lead to 8-4 with a two-run homer by Bernett in the top of the sixth.
– With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Bishop-Riley homered in her final career at bat. Alexander then struck out Canetto to seal the Regional championship.
Beyond the Box Score
– James Madison is now 15-9 all-time against the Lady Flames in softball.
– Liberty is 4-8 all-time in NCAA Division I Softball Championship play, including 2-4 when facing elimination.
– Liberty set a program record with 14 games against nationally-ranked teams this season, going 3-11 versus Top 25 teams. The Lady Flames' three Top 25 wins this year are tied for the most in a single season in program history (2007).
– The Lady Flames have posted 14 wins all-time over Top 25 opponents, with seven of those coming since the start of the 2018 season.
– Two out of Griffin's three homers this season came off of Top 25 pitching, including one off of Arkansas' Mary Haff and today's off of JMU's Alexander.
– Liberty's three homers are tied for the most by the team against a Top 25 team. Liberty also hit three homers against No. 10 Alabama on March 9, 2020.
– Liberty went 36-5 when scoring first and 21-2 when scoring in the first inning.
– Today was the final game for four seniors – Amber Bishop-Riley, Autumn Bishop, Emily Sweat and Madison Via. All four players have earned at least one all-conference award in their careers, highlighted by four-time first-team all-conference mention for the Bishop twins.
– Amber Bishop-Riley will graduate as the program's career record holder in games played and games started (274), at bats (894), runs scored (199), hits (333), homers (68), RBI (222) and total bases (605).
– Autumn Bishop graduates as the program record holder in career doubles (74), walks (108) and sacrifice flies (16). She is currently 10th all-time in NCAA Division I softball history in career doubles.
– Via finished her career ranked seventh in program history with 51 career steals and tied for sixth with nine career triples.
– Bishop, Bishop-Riley and Sweat were part of four straight 40-win seasons, making four straight postseason appearances. As freshmen, they won the initial NISC title, and they made NCAA Regional final appearances along with Via in 2018 and this season.
– Liberty earned its first-ever Top 25 ranking this season and earned the No. 2 seed for a Regional for the first time. The Lady Flames entered the Regional as one of seven NCAA Division I teams to win 40 or more games in each of the last four full seasons (2017-19, 2021).