Palm Beach Atlantic Knocks Off #2-Ranked Valdosta State at NCAA Regional

Written By: PBA Sports Information Director, Michael Brown

Ashley Jones and Erica Walters (Pictured) Continue to Work Well Together as Jones Struck Out 11 Batters on Their Way to a 3-2 Win Over Valdosta State. Photo Courtesy of: Lori Richards. Ashley Jones and Erica Walters (Pictured) Continue to Work Well Together as Jones Struck Out 11 Batters on Their Way to a 3-2 Win Over Valdosta State. Photo Courtesy of: Lori Richards.

Box Score

VALDOSTA, Ga.- After an extra innings win over the University of West Florida on Friday, the Palm Beach Atlantic University softball team came away with an even more improbable victory on Saturday as they defeated #1-seed and #2-ranked Valdosta State University in the second game of the NCAA South Regional.  The win secures PBA a spot in the region championship game to be played on Sunday.

Whatever team comes out of the loser’s bracket will be forced to defeat Palm Beach Atlantic (36-11) twice on Sunday if they plan on earning the regional championship. Game time for Sunday is at 1:30 p.m. and will be called live on the Sailfish Sports Network with pregame coverage at 1:00 p.m.

For the second straight day, Sailfish senior right-hander Ashley Jones (24-7) was absolutely dazzling as she allowed only three hits to a Valdosta (43-7) club who entered play with a .330 team batting average including a pair of hitters in Marti Littlefield and Alyssa Shirey having hit 16 and 18 homeruns respectively on the season. Jones tallied 11 strikeouts as she posted her second win of the tournament.

As was the case on Friday against UWF, the Sailfish were forced to come from behind to earn the victory.

The Lady Blazers pushed across a pair of runs in the third inning to break a scoreless tie as Shirey delivered a two-run single up the middle that narrowly escaped the glove of PBA second-baseman Natalia Ojeda.

Palm Beach Atlantic wasted little time however in getting the game tied up again as they also tallied a pair of runs in the third frame. Sophomore catcher Erica Walters worked a leadoff walk to get things started followed by an advance on a passed ball by the VSU catcher. Then came another walk to Brittany Schneider followed by a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Caitlin Bouschet to move both runners into scoring position.

After an Ojeda groundout, senior Candace Horton stepped in and connected for a single to right-field that cut the lead to 2-1. The Fish caught a break on the next play as Mari Stokes’ grounder to the VSU shortstop bounced off her glove and allowed Schneider to come in to score and tie the game.

The score would remain tied over the next few innings as Jones continued to rack up strikeouts and place zeroes on the scoreboard for the VSU offense.

PBA would go back to work in the bottom of the fifth inning when Boushcet led off with a walk that then saw VSU head coach Thomas Macera make a pitching change. Margaret Carter would enter and retire the next two batters while leaving Bouschet still standing at first-base. With two outs, Stokes would step in and drill a double into the left-centerfield gap that allowed Bouschet to run all the way around and score to move the Fish in front 3-2.

Now backed with a lead, Jones returned to the circle and despite some trouble in the sixth inning, retired the final two batters on strikes as PBA was then one inning away from a victory.

In the seventh inning, Jones retired the first two hitters on easy popups to third-baseman Miranda Welch, then leadoff hitter Amber Shaw beat out an infield single, putting the potential tying run on base. After a long battle that went to a 3-2 count, Jones struck out left-fielder Morgan Johnson for the final out, securing a hard-earned victory for the Sailfish.

Both teams finished with three hits with Horton, Stokes, and Welch each registering base-hits for PBA.

UWF and Albany State will do battle this afternoon for a right to face Valdosta State later on Saturday evening in another elimination game. The winner of that game will take on PBA on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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