Jones and Bolinger At It Again; Sailfish Clinch NCCAA Championship Game Berth

Written By: Michael Brown, Palm Beach Atlantic University SID

Becca Bolinger (Pictured) Went 3-for-5 on Friday Night Including the Game-Winning RBI Single to Push PBA to the NCCAA National Championship Game on Saturday. Photo Courtesy of: Lori Richards. Becca Bolinger (Pictured) Went 3-for-5 on Friday Night Including the Game-Winning RBI Single to Push PBA to the NCCAA National Championship Game on Saturday. Photo Courtesy of: Lori Richards.

Box Score

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.- Receiving your college diploma is an exciting time for anyone who works hard enough to earn such a distinction but it’s going to be tough to top the excitement that Palm Beach Atlantic University senior Becca Bolinger probably felt on Friday evening as she helped lift her team to a 1-0 victory over #1-seed Central Baptist College in 11 innings with a two-out RBI single to win the game and place PBA in the NCCAA National Softball Championship on Saturday.

After a 2-for-3 showing including an RBI squeeze bunt in the team’s opening round 2-0 win on Thursday, Bolinger topped even that showing with another great one on Friday night in front of a packed house at the Lake Catherine Sportsplex for the NCCAA National Softball Championships presented by Akadema and Pepsi. Bolinger will now walk with her senior classmates on Saturday at PBA’s commencement ceremonies and then have the opportunity to possibly go out on top with the NCCAA National Championship game later in the day.

Bolinger stepped in the batter’s box with runners on first and third-base in a scoreless game in the 11th inning and delivered a bouncing single over the third-baseman’s head that drove home Caitlin Bouschet for the game-winning run.

Earning the victory with an 11 inning shutout was one again the unbelievable work of PBA junior right-hander Ashley Jones. Jones shattered her previous one-game strikeout record with an astonishing 22 strikeouts on Friday night against CBC. Jones tossed her first career no-hitter the night before in PBA’s 2-0 victory over Indiana Wesleyan University in the opener with 15 strikeouts.

Both teams presented their chances throughout the evening as Central Baptist right-handed pitcher Claire Collom matched Jones nearly pitch-for-pitch as she held PBA off the scoreboard for the first ten innings of play. Collom finished as the tough-luck loser while allowing six hits and just one walk while striking out 10 batters in 10.2 innings of work.

As the game wore on, both pitchers started to show signs of fatigue but continued to press forward as fans from both sides sat at the edge of their seats.

PBA’s best option to score in the latter stages of the game came in the bottom of the seventh inning as catcher Erica Walters ripped a one-out triple into the left-field corner. After a Becca Bolinger infield single put runners at the corners, head coach Kimmy Bloemers opted to try a squeeze play. While the Fish have executed this type of play with great precision throughout the season, this time it would backfire as Shipman’s bunt attempt sailed into the glove of CBC first-baseman Cassie Martin who fired back to third-base to double-up pinch-runner Chris Donovan who was charging hard towards home on the squeeze play.

More nerver-racking moments would come a few innings later as the Mustangs brought forth their biggest opportunity to score the go-ahead run. CBC came up in the top of the ninth inning as Taylor Pryor and Cassie Martin connected on back-to-back one-out singles. Catcher Shannon Pickard then followed with an infield single off the leg of Jones that loaded the bases with just one out. Up next stepped NCCAA National Player of the Year candidate Hailey King who despite her best efforts was retired on strikes as was the next hitter Samantha Baker to end the inning as PBA fans all produced a collective sigh of relief.

Leadoff hitter Candace Horton was the only other player beyond Bolinger to register multiple hits as she finished 2-for-4  while also adding in a walk.

Bouschet and Mari Stokes each chipped in a single in the victory.

Palm Beach Atlantic will have time to rest for Saturday’s championship final as they will take on the winner of Central Baptist College and Spring Arbor University who plays at 3 pm. CBC defeated SAU 8-0 in the second round of the tournament on Thursday. Game time for the NCCAA National Championship game is slated for around 5 pm.

While PBA’s opponent is unknown at this point for the championship game, it is known that they will be forced to beat the Sailfish twice as PBA enters the final 2-0 in the double-elimination format. All three games of “Championship Saturday” will be broadcasted live on the Sailfish Radio Network.

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