Molinari's 9th Inning RBI Single Gives Softball Dramatic Win Over LIU In NCAA Tournament
May 18, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. -- Senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) had the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Massachusetts (38-12-1) a 4-3 win over Long Island (33-21) in a NCAA Softball Amherst Regional opening round game at the UMass Softball Complex Friday evening. The Minutewomen advance to the winner's bracket game Saturday at Noon against top-seeded Oklahoma (53-6). The Sooners are the No. 3 national seed and ranked No. 1 in this week's ESPN.COM/USA Softball top 25 poll. UMass trailed 2-0 in the second inning but rallied back to extend its overall winning streak to 27 games and home winning streak to 33 games, both the longest active streaks in the nation. Sophomore Brandice Balschmiter (Newark, N.Y.) won her 21st straight decision as she improved to 28-8 this season. Balschmiter allowed three runs (none of which were earned) on six hits and a season-high six walks. She had 13 strikeouts.
Long Island took advantage of a big UMass error to score two unearned runs in the top of the second inning against Balschmiter. The Blackbirds ad runners at second and third with one out when Renae Beauchman hit a hard ground ball at freshman shortstop Whitney Williams (Kingsley, Pa.). Williams made a good throw across the field, but senior Amanda Morin (Worcester, Mass.) was unable to handle the throw allowing two runs to cross the plate. Balschmiter got out of the inning without any further damage but UMass now faced a 2-0 deficit.
UMass got one of the runs back in the bottom of the second inning. Junior Lauren Proctor (La Jolla, Calif.) led off with a walk and went to second base on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Whitney Mollica (Windham, N.H.). Senior Amanda Acampora (Orange, Conn.) followed with a line drive single into centerfield, but the ball was hit too hard for Proctor to score. Senior pinch runner Michea Holness (Beverly, Mass.) and Proctor then executed a double steal for UMass' first run. Holness took off for second base and when the throw went through, Proctor slid home safely with the Minutewomen's first run. They had a chance to tie the game with Holness still in scoring position and one out, but LIU pitcher Jenny Giles struck out sophomore Samantha Salato (Toms River, N.J.) and freshman Jessica Serio (Barrington, R.I.) to get out of the jam.
Balschmiter kept Long Island off the scoreboard for the next few innings, but UMass was still down 2-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning. Balschmiter had four walks through the first five innings, including two in a row with one out in the fifth, but was able to wiggle out of a couple jams.
The Minutewomen took advantage of a big LIU error to take a 3-2 lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Salato got it started with a double into the right field corner and then senior pinch runner Jackie Teman (Downingtown, Pa.) was sacrificed to third base by Serio. Williams then continued her clutch hitting by ripping a double into left-center field. Teman scored easily, but when the throw to second base by centerfielder Brittany Murphy got away from second baseman Raylene Asman Williams took off for third. First baseman Randi Gillespie picked the ball up and tried to get Williams at third base, but her throw was well over the head of third baseman Vanessa Mejia allowing Williams to score on the play. UMass had runners on first and second with two outs later in the inning, including an infield single by senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) extending her hitting streak to a season-high 19 games, but Giles got Proctor on a hard line drive to get out of the inning.
LIU got one of the runs right back in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 3-3. Mariesha Marker reached on a one-out error, stole second base and then scored with two outs when Beauchman blooped a single into shallow center just out of the reaching of a diving Molinari.
Two walks and an illegal pitch gave Long Island runners at second and third with two outs, but Balschmiter came back to strike out Jess DePippo keeping the game tied. Giles then retired the Minutewomen in order in the bottom of the seventh inning sending the game to extras.
The Minutewomen tried a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Giles was able to get out of it and send the game onto the ninth frame. Proctor got it going with a triple into the left-center field corner. After Mollica drew a four-pitch walk, Giles was able to get Acampora on a come-backer to send the game on.
With darkness settling in, UMass was able to end the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. Salato led off the frame with a single to right field. After being sacrificed to second base by Serio, she went to third on a single to right field by Williams. With Morin at the plate, Williams stole second base and Long Island elected to intentionally walk Morin loading the bases for Molinari. She lined a 2-2 pitch into left-center field plating the winning run and sending the Minutewomen into the winner's bracket.
The Minutewomen will now face the top seed in the region and No. 1 team in the country Oklahoma (53-6) in the winner's bracket game Saturday at 12:00 PM . The Sooners beat Colgate Friday 5-2. Live video, audio and stats of every game from the 2007 NCAA Softball Amherst Regional are available free of charge via the tournament central link at www.umassathletics.com. Fans wishing to listen to the UMass broadcast with Bob Behler and Matt Goldstein can access it at www.umassathletics.com via SportsJuice. Tickets to the remaining games of the Amherst Regional are available at the UMass Softball Complex gates on game-day. Adult tickets cost $10 while UMass students and children get in for $5 a day.