FSC Falls in Softball Super Regional
One home run proved to be the difference in Saturday's second game of the NCAA Division II Softball South Super Regional, with No. 1 Valdosta State downing sixth-seeded Florida Southern 2-0 to advance to the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.
Sixteen hours after a 16-inning marathon in the first game of the South Super Regional, pitchers Christine Clark and Alanna Hadley were at it again in game two. Unfortunately for Florida Southern, so was Valdosta State first baseman Natalia Morozova. While Clark and Hadley put up matching goose eggs for most of the game, Morozova hit a 2-run homer in the top of the fourth to give the top-ranked Blazers a 2-0 win, and the 2012 South Region title.
Florida Southern (39-18) out-hit Valdosta State 6-5, but Morozova’s big hit was the difference for the second day in a row. Friday night, the senior first baseman had an RBI double with one out in the bottom of the 16th inning, lifting the Blazers (53-4) to a 2-1 win.
Both hits spoiled two otherwise dominating performances by Clark, the senior ace of the Moccasin pitching staff, who gave up just 14 hits in 23 innings to one of the top hitting teams in the country. Saturday, she allowed only five hits, struck out three and walked none, pitching her 33rd complete game of the season, the second most in school history. She finished the year 29-11 with a 0.89 ERA that ranks third in the nation.
Through the first three innings of Saturday’s game, the Moccasins had a hit in all of them while Clark held the Blazers hitless. The only VSU base runner during that time came on an error to start the game, but Clark set down 10 in a row before Samantha Posey hit a slow roller to short for an infield single in the top of the fourth. Two batters later, Morozova hit one over the fence in centerfield for her third home run of the season and a 2-0 Blazer lead.
Prior to that, Florida Southern got singles from Karlyn Scott in the first and third innings, and a single from Dayna Hunn in the second. Brittany Martin was also hit by a pitch in the second inning, but the Moccasins hit into a double play to end the first, and Martin was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Valdosta error in the second. Scott was stranded at second after a stolen base in the third.
The Moccasins had more base runners in the fifth and sixth innings with a single by Clark and a walk by Steph Graziani, but left both runners in scoring position. In the bottom of the seventh, the Mocs rose up again with back-to-back 1-out singles by Clark and Devin Mathews, but Hadley got the final two outs to send Valdosta State to the national tournament for the second time in the last three years.
Hadley scattered six hits in her 12th shutout of the season, improving to 29-3. She struck out two and walked one, keeping her ERA under 1.00 for the season as well.
GAME ONE RECAP
It took 16 innings, but top-seed and host Valdosta State outlasted sixth-seeded Florida Southern 2-1 in Friday's opening game of the NCAA Division II Softball South Super Regional. The Mocs will look to stave off elimination in game two on Saturday at 1 p.m.
A one-out RBI double by VSU's Natalia Morozova ultimately gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Friday night’s game was the longest postseason game in Florida Southern history, surpassing a 13-inning game in the 2005 regional tournament against West Florida. It was also the longest South Region Tournament game period since regional alignment began in 1994, and the longest Super Regional game anywhere in the country since Division II adopted that format in 2009. The previous Super Regional record had been set earlier in the day when Molloy (NY) beat Southern Connecticut State in 15 innings.
The match-up featured two of the top pitchers in Division II, with FSC's Christine Clark owning a 29-9 record and a 0.86 ERA that ranked third in the country, and Valdosta State’s Alanna Hadley starting the night 27-3 with a 0.97 ERA that ranked fifth. The two seniors gave a large and raucous crowd exactly what they expected. Through the first seven innings they each allowed only one run on three hits, and each team had base runners in only three innings. By the time the game reached the 14th inning, the hit totals had only moved to five apiece, and the teams combined for only 15 in the game.
Ultimately, the Blazers (52-4) prevailed when Marti Littlefield and Morozova hit back-to-back doubles with one out in the bottom of the 16th. Littlefield’s hit, her only one in seven at-bats, was fair by only inches as it bounced just inside the first base bag and into the rightfield corner. Morozova followed with a line drive into left centerfield gap to score the winning run, and end the longest game in Valdosta State history.
Despite the loss, Clark was fantastic from start to finish. She held a VSU team hitting .346 to only nine hits and two runs in 15.1 innings. Clark struck out 15 and had no walks, her eighth double-digit strikeout game of the season, and one shy of the school’s postseason record set by Megan Brown in 2005 against West Florida.
The first run of the game was scored by Florida Southern (39-17), as Brittany Martin hit a towering home run over the left field fence leading off the top of the second inning. It was the ninth home run of the season for Martin, and it allowed the senior third baseman to tie the school’s career home run record of 16 in only two seasons. She now shares that record with Wanda Graham (1990-93) and Angela Williams (2006-09).
Though Clark did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, she still had to work out of trouble in the bottom of the third. Clark hit #7 hitter Angela O’Connor leading off the inning, and when Clare Wamsley put down a bunt, Clark’s throw to first pulled Steph Graziani off the bag. It was the first error of the season for the top fielding pitcher in the Sunshine State Conference. Clark shook it off though, and retired the next three VSU batters without incident.
Two innings later, however, the Blazers broke through with their first run of the game. Ashley Steinhilber gave VSU its first hit of the game with a leadoff single in the fifth, and O’Connor bunted her into scoring position. Wamsley got the job done for the Blazers with a single through the right side of the infield, and despite a strong throw from Dayna Hunn, Steinhilber was able to slide in under the tag at the plate.
Both teams had chances in the ensuing innings, but neither squad would capitalize on its chances until Valdosta State's 16th inning rally.
Game two of the series will be Saturday afternoon at 1:00.