Panthers Defeat No. 19 North Alabama 4-2, Advancing to First-Ever Super Regionals
FLORENCE, Ala. – Brigit Godfrey fielded a Courtney Shields grounder and shuttled the ball to Taylor Peterson at third for the final out. Immediately after, pandemonium ensued as sixth-seeded Florida Tech celebrated its first-ever NCAA Regional Championship, defeating three-seeded and No. 19 North Alabama 4-2 on Sunday at the UNA Softball Complex.
“We really, really excited,” head coach Val Silvestrini said. “We always tell the team that any team can be beat. The team that plays the best is going to be the one that takes the ‘W’ home. I’m really proud of the team and how well they played.”
UNA (38-14) forced the winner-take-all game earlier on Sunday, defeating the Panthers 2-1 in the first game of the day.
The Lions struck with a thud in the fourth inning, as Libby Olinger crushed a Rachel Pence offering over the left field fence to score two runs.
The Panthers (38-18) drew near in the sixth, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with a Nicole Miller single up the middle, scoring Elaine Brown from second. North Alabama, however, held off the rally and forced the second game of the day.
FIT did its damage early in the later game, scoring all four runs in the first two innings.
The Panthers didn’t need the advantage of a hit in the first, as Godfrey walked, stole second and third and was plated with a grounder to the shortstop by Miller.
FIT added to the lead in the second. Nicole Shinsky started off the inning by clobbering a double to left. Hailey Leonard followed by blooping a single just out of the reach of the shortstop, though Shinsky was forced to hold at second on the play. Both runners advanced into scoring position on a passed ball.
The Panthers decided to use some small ball, electing to run a squeeze play with Jessica Callahan. Callahan laid the bunt down and the throw home wasn’t quick enough to catch Shinsky. Much like the previous day, Godfrey came through with a clutch two-out single to center field. After the second inning, FIT led 4-0.
UNA drew near in the fifth as Olinger doubled home Reagan Tittle and Madeline Lee brought Brooklynn Clark home with a double to left.
The Lions nearly tied the game in the sixth when Carey Grace Peebles slapped a liner to the left side with runners at second and third but Godfrey laid out to prevent the runs from scoring.
UNA again had two runners on in the seventh but was unable to make the final play.
With the game on the line, the Panthers turned to Pence to close the game out. Though the Lions put together a few chances, the sophomore produced all of the crucial outs to seal the game.
Taylor Smith was as solid as always, holding the powerful UNA offense to just two runs in her four innings to record the win, her second in as many days and 14th of the season.
“We scored in the first and second innings and had runners on base in almost every inning,” Silvestrini said about the second game. “It was very exciting. We knew North Alabama was going to come after us and they did. Our defense responded and our pitchers did great. Brigit (Godfrey) was phenomenal on defense and offense as well. It was a very, very exciting game and a very, very exciting weekend.”
The Panthers will now play Shorter in the NCAA Super Regionals May 15-17. The times and location of the three game series have yet to be determined.
Game One Box Score: http://www.floridatechsports.com/media/2014-15/softball/stats/fits55.htm
Game Two Box Score: http://www.floridatechsports.com/media/2014-15/softball/stats/fits56.htm
Final Out/Celebration Video: https://youtu.be/_wyMLL5nGCE