Molinari Sends Softball To Regional Final Showdown With No. 1 Oklahoma Sunday At Noon
May 19, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. -- For the second straight day, senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) had the game-winning hit as Massachusetts (39-13-1) defeated Long Island (34-22), 7-3, in an elimination game of the NCAA Softball Amherst Regional Saturday evening at the UMass Softball Complex. This time, Molinari had a two-out, two-run double in the top of the sixth inning breaking a 3-3 tie and finished the game 3-for-4. UMass had 11 hits on the day and saw Long Island rally back from two different deficits. Sophomore Brandice Balschmiter (Newark, N.Y.) improved to 29-9 with the complete-game win. She allowed three earned runs on six hits while walking one and striking out three. Balschmiter was helped by three double-plays in the field behind her. UMass now advances to the Sunday's regional final against No. 1 Oklahoma at Noon. The Minutewomen will need to defeat the Sooners twice for a spot in next week's Super Regionals.
Both teams quietly in the first inning, but UMass broke through first with a run in the top of the second. Sophomore Whitney Mollica (Windham, N.H.) led off with a triple to right-center field and came around to score one batter later when senior Amanda Acampora (Orange, Conn.) lined a single into left field. Senior pinch runner Michea Holness (Beverly, Mass.) was bunted to second base by sophomore Samantha Salato (Toms River, N.J.), but LIU pitcher Jenny Giles was able to get out of the jam.
Long Island came right back to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning. Back-to-back doubles by Vanessa Mejia and Raylene Asman tied the game at one and also gave the Blackbirds a runner at second with nobody out, but Balschmiter was able to keep the game tied. The Minutewomen came right back, however, to plate a pair of runs in the top of the third inning to take a 3-1 lead. With one out, consecutive singles by senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) and junior Stacy Cullington (Encinitas, Calif.) followed by a walk to junior Lauren Proctor (La Jolla, Calif.) loaded the bases up. Mollica the ripped a pitch up the middle and into center field for a two-run single. Molinari easily scored and sophomore pinch runner Davina Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) slid safely into home just around the tag of LIU catcher Mariesha Marker.
Long Island got one of the runs back in a wild bottom of the third inning. Randi Gillespie got it going with a one-out single and went to second base on a Balschmiter wild pitch. Brittany Murphy then doubled softly down the left-field line. Proctor made a perfect one-hop throw home that would have nailed Gillespie at the plate but UMass freshman catcher Jessica Serio (Barrington, R.I.) was unable to control the ball. She was charged with an error and Murphy went to third base on the play. Celina Castillo then gave the ball a ride into right-center field, but Salato made a running back-handed catch on the warning track to haul it in and prevent extra bases. Murphy easily tagged and scored from third, but UMass immediately appealed the play. Home plate umpire Art St. Germain immediately called Murphy out for leaving early and UMass hung onto the lead.
The score remained 3-2 UMass until the bottom of the fifth inning when Chelsea Martinson turned on a 2-2 Balschmiter pitch and took it over the fence for a solo home run to tie the game at three. It was the third home run of the season for Martinson and just the fifth allowed by Balschmiter. Balschmiter allowed a two-out single later in the inning to Gillespie, but was able to send the game onto the sixth still tied at three.
The Minutewomen answered right back with two runs in the top of the sixth inning on another clutch, two-out hit off the bat of Molinari. Freshman pinch hitter Sarah Reeves (Elkton, Md.) got it going when her one-out smash at shortstop was misplayed by Castillo and that turned out to be a big play in the inning. Senior pinch runner Jackie Teman (Downingtown, Pa.) went to second base on a single up the middle by freshman Whitney Williams (Kingsley, Pa.). After each runner moved up a base on a ground out to the right side by Morin, Molinari came up with another big hit for UMass. She ripped the first pitch that she saw from Giles into left-center field for a two-run double putting the Minutewomen up 5-3.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Balschmiter hit the first batter on the first pitch but the UMass defense turned its third double-play of the day later in the frame to keep the Blackbirds off the scoreboard. Proctor led off the top of the seventh inning with a sharp single to left and that was the end of Gile's day. Blaire Porter came into the game in relief, but did not fair much better. She walked Mollica and after a wild pitch, Acampora delivered some insurance with a two-run single up the middle making the score 7-3 UMass. Giles came back into the game and kept the Minutewomen from running away with the game, but LIU had some work to do needing four runs to tie in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Balschmiter was able to get Long Island in order in the bottom of the seventh inning to preserve the win.
UMass will now face No. 1 Oklahoma in the championship series Sunday at Noon. The Sooners will need to be defeated twice for the right to advance into next week's 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.