Historic Season for PBA Softball Ends in Heartbreaking Fashion at NCAA Regional
May 16, 2010
Written By: Michael Brown, PBA Sports Information Director
VALDOSTA, Ga.- The Palm Beach Atlantic University softball team saw their record-breaking season come to a close on Sunday afternoon as they dropped a pair of gut-wrenching contests to #2-ranked Valdosta State University as the host-Lady Blazers defeated the Sailfish 2-1 and 5-2 in the championship final of the NCAA South Regional tournament. Game one took 10 innings which forced the deciding finale in game two on a hot and steamy day in south Georgia.
A classic battle of great pitching versus great hitting, the Sailfish (36-13) and Blazers (46-7) battled to a scoreless tie through nine innings of play in the opener before the Fish took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the tenth inning. Both teams defenses faltered down the stretch in an otherwise remarkable tournament for both squads.
After a Candace Horton RBI brought home the game’s first run in the top of the tenth inning that plated catcher Erica Walters, PBA senior Ashley Jones would go back to the circle looking to get the final three outs for the win and a regional championship.
The Lady Blazers would not go down without a fight however as the first batter reached on an error to give the team new life. After a long fly out to the base of the fence by slugger Alyssa Shirey left all the PBA fans in attendance with a sigh of relief, the next batter lined out to shortstop for the second out, bringing the Fish even closer.
Up next stepped Sarah Vaughn who lifted a popup into short left-field that looked as if it may end the game, however with PBA left-fielder Brittany Schneider charging in and shortstop Caitlin Bouschet going out, neither could make the catch as the ball popped out of the glove of Schneider which put runners at the corners with two outs.
Ashley Steinhilber next stepped in for VSU and ripped a low line drive to shortstop which could not be handled in the air by Bouschet who then tried to get Steinhilber at first but her throw got away and sailed into the dugout to send home the game-winning run.
A tough ending for an otherwise well-played game for the Fish, Jones was simply amazing once again in the circle, limiting the powerful VSU lineup to only two hits over 9.2 innings while striking out seven batters and walking none.
Holly Satterfield and Margaret Carter combined on the win for VSU as Satterfield went the first 7.2 innings of work, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out three batters while Carter notched the win with 2.1 innings of work in holding the Fish to one run on two hits.
The VSU defense made seven errors in the contest, all from the seventh inning on, including four by the Blazers shortstop.
Mari Stokes finished game one with an impressive 3-for-5 showing at the plate as she collected three of the team’s five hits.
After such a devastating ending to game one, the Fish found themselves needing to regroup as they would take on VSU just 45 minutes later. With both teams dealing with the heat and humidity not to mention the physical and mental strain of playing five games in three days, the game would begin with a surprising start.
With Jones once again back in the pitching circle for PBA, the senior came out firing on all cylinders as she retired the first three hitters in order to start the second game. Then the Sailfish offense went to work and quickly tagged VSU starter Margaret Carter with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Mari Stokes and Cassady Faircloth collected run-scoring singles in the frame as PBA backed Jones with two early runs.
Jones continued to keep the VSU hitters off balance until the fourth inning when Shirey connected for the second homerun of the tournament off of Jones as she launched a ball deep over the right-centerfield fence to cut the lead to 2-1.
After a solid start with the bats in the first inning, PBA would go cold over the final six innings as Carter got in a groove and used an improved defensive effort by the Blazers to hold the Sailfish at bay.
Valdosta State would take the lead in the top of the sixth inning as they plated four runs and finally chased Jones from the game as she left to a standing ovation from Sailfish and Blazers fans alike. Fellow senior Heather Laird would enter as she allowed three hits and two runs with two walks and a strikeout to close out the inning.
Sophomore Chris Donovan would pitch a scoreless inning in the seventh frame with a walk and a strikeout.
Despite their best efforts, the Sailfish would not be able to muster a comeback against Carter as she finished the win with a complete game effort that included six hits allowed and two unearned runs as she improved to 21-5 on the season.
Shirey finished an impressive tournament with a 3-for-4 performance in game two including a homerun which was her 20th of the 2010 campaign. Vaughn was 2-for-2 with a triple and a walk while driving in one run and scoring another.
Six different Sailfish hitters each registered one hit apiece with Stokes and Faircloth collecting a run batted in each.
For the tournament, Jones tallied 30 innings pitched while allowing only six earned runs and 14 hits while striking out 33 batters.
The 2010 season is now closed for the Sailfish softball team as they established the winningest season in school history while earning their first-ever trip to NCAA postseason. School records were achieved for wins in a season (36), consecutive wins (16), and many personal accolades. A special thank you goes out to the Sailfish senior class of Chelsea Gravini, Candace Horton, Ashley Jones, Heather Laird, and Dani Perrotti as they exit the program with the best four-year stretch in program history, all under fourth-year head coach Kimmy Bloemers.