Rally Comes Up Short As Softball Falls To No. 1 Oklahoma, 6-3, In Regional Final
May 20, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. -- A four-run top of the third inning was enough for the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Softball team (55-6) to knock off Massachusetts (39-14-1), 6-3, Sunday afternoon in the final game of the NCAA Softball Amherst Regional. The Sooners will now advance to the Super Regionals. UMass came back with three runs in the bottom of the third inning after falling behind 4-0, but two spectacular catches by OU centerfielder Jamie Fox preserved the lead. Senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) was 1-for-3 in the game and finished the season with a .401 batting average becoming just the ninth player in school history to hit over .400 in a season.
Two hours of heavy rains in the morning forced an hour and a half rain delay, but when the first pitch was thrown at 1:30 PM ET it was the best day weather wise the entire weekend. Each team had a runner in the first inning, but could not get a run home. For UMass, senior Candice Molinari (Glendora, Calif.) legged out an infield single but was thrown out trying to steal second base later in the inning.
In the top of the second inning, Oklahoma had consecutive one-out singles, but Balschmiter got a big strikeout and pop-up on the infield to get out of the jam. UMass went easily in the bottom half of the inning and then the OU bats exploded in the top of the third against Balschmiter.Norelle Dickson led off with an infield single and then stole second base. Mariee Mena followed with a single and stole second base herself giving the Sooners runners at second and third with nobody out. Amber Flores then grounded to sophomore Whitney Mollica (Windham, N.H.) at third base. Mollica threw home but Dickson slid around the tag. A RBI single by Samantha Ricketts made it 2-0 and then a successful suicide squeeze by Jamie Fox made it 3-0. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Lindsey Vandever rounded out the Oklahoma inning.
UMass answered right back with a three-run inning of its own. Sophomore Samantha Salato (Toms River, N.J.) led off the inning by reaching on an error and was lifted for a pinch runner in sophomore Davina Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.). Freshman Jessica Serio (Barrington, R.I.) then faked bunt and swung away giving the ball a ride into left-center field. On some days, the ball might have been a home run, but with the wind blowing from left field out to right field it held it up and allowed OU center fielder Jamie Fox to made a running catch on the warning track. Freshman Whitney Williams (Kingsley, Pa.) doubled into right-center field. Hernandez had to hold up in case the ball was caught so she had to stop at third base but a single off the bat of senior Amanda Morin (Worcester, Mass.) cut OU's lead in half to 4-2. After Molinari was thrown out at first base by a half step trying to leg out an infield single, junior Stacy Cullington (Encinitas, Calif.) kept the rally alive with a RBI double on a 3-2 pitch that was just fair inside down the first-base line. The inning ended with another great catch by Fox in center field. Junior Lauren Proctor (La Jolla, Calif.) drilled the ball into dead center field that Fox was able to catch on the warning track. The Minutewomen settled for a three-spot that sent the game to the fourth inning 4-3 in favor of the Sooners.
Balschmiter retired Oklahoma in order in the top of the fourth inning and came up in the fourth looking for the tying run. Mollica led off with a single into right field. Senior pinch runner Jackie Teman (Downingtown, Pa.) was sacrificed to second base by senior Amanda Acampora (Orange, Conn.) and went to third on a ground out by Salato, but OU pitcher Lauren Eckermann was able to strike Serio out on a 2-2 change-up to keep the game at 4-3.
The Sooners added a big insurance run in the top of the fifth inning taking advantage of two UMass errors to open up a 5-3 lead. The Minutewomen went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning and freshman pitcher Bailey Sanders (Durham, Conn.) came out to start the sixth inning in the circle for the Minutewomen. Oklahoma added another insurance run off of Sanders in the sixth inning. The Minutewomen's third error of the game led to the Sooners' sixth run and UMass now faced a 6-3 deficit heading to the bottom of the sixth inning.
Eckermann continued to keep UMass from clawing back into the game in the sixth. She retired the side in order again and made it nine straight UMass batters retired since the Mollica single leading off the fourth inning. The Sooners loaded the bases with two outs against Sanders in the top of the seventh but were unable to score so the Minutewomen had one last chance against Eckermann needing three runs to tie.
Eckermann was just too much as UMass was retired in order again in the seventh. The Minutewomen complete their season with a 39-14-1 record.