GULF SHORES, Ala. - (Updated Schedule & Box Score) A pair of home runs and a complete-game victory from Maddie Bray sent Shorter (Ga.) to a 5-1 win over Southern States Athletic Conference rival Brenau (Ga.) and into the 2012 NAIA Softball National Championship final game for the first time in school history.
"I'm just so proud of the girls," Shorter head coach Al Thomas said. "They're playing loose and I'm kind of a loose kind of guy myself. I'm trying to take the pressure off of them. It is exciting. I'm just thrilled for them. I don't pitch, I don't hit, I can't do any of that stuff. It's all on them and they're doing it and doing a great job so far."
Bray scattered nine hits in 7 innings of work, limiting the Golden Tigers to one run, while striking out seven and walking none. The Shorter bats jumped on a pair of Brenau pitchers for five runs on six hits, including a double and two home runs.
That first home run came off the bat of Jackie Castenada, when she smacked a 0-1 pitch over the center field fence for a 1-0 lead in the first. With the score still 1-0 after three innings, the Lady Hawks tacked on two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings to take control of the game.
Emily Clements started the fourth with her solo home run, and the Hawks turned a Bre Johnson double into a 3-0 lead. The fifth inning rally came with two outs, as Castenada extended the frame with a two-out walk. Two batters later, Amanda Dailey drove home a pair with an opposite field single.
"That home run did get us started, and then we came back with another one, and then kind of punched one in on a fly ball to right field, and those are the kind of things you have to do to win a ball game," Thomas said. "You've got to take the outside pitches to right field and we did that three times today and got some hits, scored some runs, got the fly ball. Those little things are what put the runs across."
Brenau will face Oklahoma City, a 1-0 winner over Cal State San Marcos today, in the loser's bracket elimination game at 5:30 p.m. CDT today.