BUIES CREEK, N.C. - No. 1 Longwood topped No. 5 Charleston Southern on Friday afternoon in the winner's bracket of the Big South Softball Championships as the Lancers scored the game-winning run on a passed ball to escape the Buccaneers in extra innings, 3-2.
The Bucs had their chance to put the game away in the top of the seventh as CSU loaded the bases with one out, but aggressive play and a lucky bounce off the backstop led to the Lancers catching Amanda Matsumoto attempting to score on a passed ball to send the game into extra innings.
"That was tournament softball right there," said CSU head coach Shane Winkler. "It's unfortunate that someone has to lose a game right there. We played well. Jennifer Giles threw an amazing game; she did exactly what she needed to get us an opportunity. We just didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had. We played a great ballgame and now we'll see how quick we can get our young team to bounce back."
Longwood scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the eight as Megan Baltzell scored on a one-out passed ball with the pitch from Jennifer Giles (14-16) bouncing away from the catcher. The relay to the plate was not in time as the Lancers advanced to Saturday afternoon.
Charleston Southern faces off against No. 3 Winthrop on Friday night at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. Live Stats will be provided on CSUSports.com, while the game will be streamed live via the Big South Network.
The CSU bench kept the crowd and the energy level in favor of the Bucs throughout the contest early in the contest and the energy fueled Giles throughout the contest. The CSU senior went the distance for the second straight game, allowing just three hits, while striking out six over 7.1 innings in suffering the loss. She also made a pair of great plays on balls back up the middle to help herself on the defensive side.
"We know dating back to last year that the energy was going to be there," commented Winkler. "A lot of these girls won a championship last season and they're going to bring it with their energy and positive-ness. It didn't come down to one pitch or one play today. We showed we're the type of team that if we play like that, we'll be back there again on Sunday and that's the goal."
CSU jumped ahead early in the top of the second inning as Brooke Lein drew a walk and Brittany McPherson was hit by a pitch from Longwood ace Elizabeth McCarthy (22-12). With Cierra Robinson in to run for Lein, Brook Richardson dropped down the sacrifice bunt to advance the runners into scoring position. Natalie Yonan followed with a two-run double down the left field line putting the Bucs ahead 2-0.
The Buccaneers' defense continued their dominant play in the tournament in the bottom of the first inning, with Stevi Johnson throwing out Baltzell at the plate to end the frame. Baltzell attempted to score on Emily Murphy's single to right, but Johnson fielded it cleanly and threw a perfect strike to a blocking Marci Christian to end the scoring threat.
Longwood broke through in the bottom of the fourth on Carly Adams' double down the left field line, scoring Baltzell and Murphy to even the score.
The Lancers threatened in the bottom of the sixth , loading the bases with one out. However, Giles dug deep into her arsenal, getting a groundout to first, before getting Kelsey Sweeney swinging at strike three to end the threat.
CSU was unable to score in the top of the seventh and Giles retired the Lancers in order to send the game into extra innings.
After the Bucs' frame in the eighth ended on a double play, the Lancers took advantage of a CSU error on their way to scoring the walk-off run.
Yonan's double was one of five CSU hits in the contest for the Bucs. Lein did not record an official at-bat in the game for CSU, drawing three walks and getting hit by a pitch in her four plate appearances.