Softball Falls To No. 1 Oklahoma, 2-0; Will Play Again At 5:00
May 19, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. -- Lauren Eckermann (36-3) tossed a four-hit shutout with no walks and six strikeouts as the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (54-6) defeated Massachusetts (38-13-1), 2-0, in the winner's bracket of the NCAA Softball Amherst Regional Saturday afternoon at the UMass Softball Complex. Oklahoma advances to Sunday's regional final at Noon, while UMass now plays the winner of the Long Island/Colgate game later Saturday afternoon at approximately 5:00 PM. The loss snaps the Minutewomen's overall winning streak at 27 games and home winning streak at 33. UMass had a runner in scoring position three times against Eckermann, but were unable to scratch across a run. Sophomore Brandice Balschmiter (Newark, N.Y.) lost for the first time in 22 starts as she fell to 28-9 on the season. Only one of the runs was earned and she yielded seven hits while walking three and striking out four.
Senior Amanda Morin (Worcester, Mass.) nearly gave the Minutewomen a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a solo home run. She hit a shot headed for the right-field bleachers, but it bounced off the top of the fence. The bounce came hard off the top of the fence and went directly into the glove of Oklahoma right fielder Mariee Mena. Mena quickly threw to second base and held Morin to a 190 foot single. Morin got as far as second base with two outs, but OU pitcher Lauren Eckermann struck out junior Lauren Proctor (La Jolla, Calif.) to end the threat.
In the bottom of the first inning, an infield single with one out and then a stolen base, wild pitch and two-out intentional walk to Player of the Year finalist Samantha Ricketts gave the Sooners runners at the corners but Balschmiter got Susan Ogden on a weak pop-up to first base ending the threat.
Sophomore Whitney Mollica (Windham, N.H.) led off the second inning with a hard single up the middle, but sophomore Davina Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) was quickly erased on the base paths as the OU defense turned a sacrifice bunt attempt into a double-play off the bat of senior Amanda Acampora (Orange, Conn.). The Sooners broke through with a run in the bottom of the second inning. Jamie Fox led off the inning with a walk, later stole second and came around to score when Traci Dickenson doubled off the wall in right field with two outs.
The Sooners had a chance to increase the lead in the bottom of the third inning with runners at first and second with one out, but Balschmiter was able to induce a double play. Ogden hit a hard grounder to Mollica at third base who tagged the bag and threw across the field completing the twin-killing. The Minutewomen had a chance to tie the game in the top of the fourth, but Eckermann was able to get out of it again. Junior Stacy Cullington (Encinitas, Calif.) doubled off the wall in left field with one out. Senior pinch runner Jackie Teman (Downingtown, Pa.) moved to third on a ground out by Proctor, but Mollica grounded out to the pitcher ending the inning.
OU had two runners on with two outs again in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Balschmiter got Norelle Dickson on a come-backer to get out of the inning. The Minutewomen came up for their at bat in the top of the fifth looking for the tying run.With two outs, freshman pinch hitter Sarah Reeves (Elkton, Md.) gave the ball a ride out to left-center field but with the wind blowing in from that direction OU centerfielder Jamie Fox was able to settle under it on the warning and make the inning-ending catch.
The Sooners added a big insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning. With runners on second and third with one out, a passed ball allowed Fox to score the second run. When the throw initially got away, Jade Prather tried to score from second base but was thrown out.
UMass came up for one last chance in the top of the seventh inning. Proctor tried to start a rally with a one-out single up the middle, but Mollica hit into a double-play on the very next pitch ending the game.
The Minutewomen will now face the winner of the 2:30 PM Long Island/Colgate game at approximately 5:00 PM in an elimination game. The winner of that contest will go on to play No. 1 Oklahoma in Sunday's regional final at Noon. The Sooners will need to be defeated twice for the right to advance into the Super Regionals. 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.