By Alfred Kojima, NAIA Media Assistant
Pictures by www.NAIApictures.com
COLUMBUS, Ga. – (Box Score) No. 7 seed Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) pushed across three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to post a 4-2 victory over No. 3 seed Lee (Tenn.) in an elimination game at the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship final site at the South Commons Softball Complex on Saturday. After tailing 2-0, the Warhawks took the lead for good with four hits and one error in the game-deciding inning.
AUM (45-11) will advance in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination event and will play either No.1 seed Concordia (Calif.) or No. 8 Reinhardt (Ga.) in an elimination game Monday at 1 p.m. EDT. Lee concludes the 2013 season with a record of 47-11 overall.
Lee had 11 hits on the day, but stranded 12 runners in the loss. Of those left stranded, eight occurred in the final three innings, including the bases loaded in the fifth and seventh innings. Senior shortstop Jennifer Ringle finished with three hits, while sophomore leftfielder Dominique Hannah and freshman designated player Lexie Dean added two hits each.
Lee took a 2-0 lead on unearned runs in the third and fourth innings. Hannah reached on an infield bunt single to start the third inning, moved to second on a sacrifice hit and scored on a misplayed ground ball. In the fourth, senior Savanna Bell bunted and reached first on an error, and scored on an RBI double by sophomore Laurel Allen.
“We kind of got flat there (trailing 2-0) and I didn’t want the girls to give up on themselves,” said AUM head coach Christina Steiner Wilcoxson. “We are very good at the plate all the season long and I just didn’t want us to forget that. I am really proud of us fighting back.”
Auburn Montgomery could not muster any offense through three innings against Lee’s Jessa Watts. But the fourth inning was different. In the bottom of the fourth, AUM sophomore third baseman Katie Spain led off the inning with her 15th home run of the season.
Down 2-1 in the sixth inning, back-to-back base hits by junior Jyssica Pepper and Spain started the inning for the Warhawks. Junior designated hitter Leslie Kelly stepped in and drove a double to left centerfield, scoring Pepper. An errant Lady Flame throw allowed Spain to score the go-ahead run. After one out, freshman Kayla Hale delivered a base hit adding a run for the Warhawks. At that point, AUM held a 4-2 edge heading into the seventh inning.
Lee had a final opportunity in the top of the seventh. The Lady Flames had back-to-back singles by Riggle and junior Ana Coscorrosa. After a popup, junior Meghan Macias reached on a fielder’s choice for the second out. A pinch hit single by senior Charlie Wooden loaded the bases, however AUM pitcher Cassie Daniels was able to strike out the final batter to close out the game.
AUM collected eight hits, including four in the sixth inning. Laci Driggers, Spain and Kelly each rapped out two hits to lead the hit attack.
“Every team in the championship is real good,” commented Steiner Wilcoxson on her team’s resiliency. “The girls can be just as good but I didn’t want them to give up on themselves. We are going to make mistakes, but we got a chance to fight and get it back.”
Daniels did not allow an earned run, walked one and struck out seven in 130 pitches. Daniels recorded 231 pitches in a loss against Spring Hill (Ala.) Friday, and has thrown 361 pitches in two games at the national championship.
Daniels moved to 23-5 on the year, while Watts fell to 6-3 in the circle for the Lady Flames.
The championship is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by the Columbus Sports Council. This is the 33rd annual championship and takes place in the state of Georgia for the first time in NAIA softball history.
For more information on the national championship, click here.