AUM softball, Faulkner baseball stay unbeaten in NAIA World Series play
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - The No. 2 seed Auburn Montgomery softball team scored four times in the first two innings and Cassie Jones struck out 14, as it remained in the winner’s bracket at the NAIA Softball World Series with a 5-1 victory over No. 3 seed Lindsey Wilson at the Jensen Softball Complex Monday.
With the win, the Warhawks improved to 44-8 on the season and will take on No. 9 seed Concordia (Ore.) Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner of tomorrow’s game will advance to the national title game on Thursday and will need to be defeated twice by the winner of the loser’s bracket.
AUM set the pace early in the contest, scoring twice in the first inning on RBI doubles by Jade Sasser and Kayla Hale. Katie Spain started the rally with a one-out single and moved to second on a stolen base. Sasser ripped a double to right-centerfield, scoring Spain, before coming around to score herself on a second consecutive two-bagger by Hale.
The Warhawks extended their lead to 4-0 in the second inning, when Laci Driggers connected on a two-run homer and chased Blue Raiders’ starter Lyndsey Parden (13-3) from the game. Hayden Henderson led off the inning with a four-pitch walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Amie Kelly. After Katie Brinkman flew out to right field, Driggers took a 2-0 offering from Parden and drove the ball over the fence in left field. Jordan Hood replaced Parden and tossed the final 4 1/3 innings, allowing a run and three hits, while striking out six.
AUM added a fifth run in the fifth inning, when Sasser singled home Spain, who ripped a one-out double.
The Blue Raiders (49-7) avoided the shutout with a run in the sixth inning, when Amanda Trampe plated Jenna Firestein and pulled LWC to within 5-1.
The early cushion was more than enough for Jones, who scattered six hits and walked just one to improve to 33-4 on the year. Jones surrendered the one run in the contest, snapping her consecutive scoreless inning streak at 37 2/3 innings. The 14 strikeouts also upped her personal streak of double-figure punch outs to eight.
Spain finished the game 3 for 3 with a double and a pair of runs scored, while Driggers and Sasser each drove in a pair.
Parden took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. Trampe led the Blue Raiders with two hits.
Faulkner holds off Embry-Riddle to stay unbeaten in WS
LEWISTON, Idaho - In just three nerve-racking pitches, Faulkner third baseman Dennis Morton’s entire night took a dramatic turn for the better.
After making a ninth-inning error that allowed Embry-Riddle to score twice and creep to within a run, the junior fielded a tough ground ball that started an around-the-horn double play that closed it out. While his teammates celebrated the 7-6 victory here Monday night that kept Faulkner undefeated in the Avista-NAIA World Series, the San Diego native took a deep breath. He was, admittedly, finally able to relax.
"I just had a feeling after I made the error, the next guy was going to hit it to me," said Morton, who also had two hits on the night. "I already had it played out in my mind and I was ready. I went from really ticked off to really excited in about a minute’s time."
Winning their 50th game of the season against just 13 losses, the Eagles appeared to be in command heading to the bottom of the eighth inning, leading 6-0. Embry-Riddle scored four times to make it 6-4 and, after Faulkner added a run in the top of the ninth, threatened to steal this one away in its final at-bat.
Faulkner closer Alejandro Castro retired the leadoff hitter on a fly ball to center, but pinch-hitter A.J. Mazzurco singled up the middle to start the rally. Tobias Moreno was hit by a pitch and Jake Cavender drew a walk to load the bases. Liam Goodall then hit a bounder to Morton, whose throw to catcher Robert Llera went all the way to the backstop, allowing Mazzurco and Moreno to score to pull Embry-Riddle to within one.
With runners at first and third, Enderson Velasquez hit an 0-2 pitch right at Morton, whose throw to Dario Polanco for the second out was then relayed to Cody Sos at first base to end it.
"You take them any way you can get them out here," said an elated head coach Patrick McCarthy, whose Eagles also won their first two games in the tournament two years ago en route to the national championship. "You can never score enough runs in these games. Things happen in this one week of baseball that you won’t see in four regular seasons. We’re happy to win, and I’m especially happy for Dennis. It takes guts to recover from a bad play and want the ball hit right back to you again so you can make a great play. That’s what he did tonight."
The Eagles will play host Lewis-Clark State, which beat Concordia (Calif.) 7-4 late Monday night, at 8:30 p.m. central time Tuesday in a matchup of the only two undefeated teams left in the double-elimination tournament. A pair of elimination games will be played earlier in the day, with Oklahoma Baptist facing St. Thomas (Fla.) at 2 p.m. central time and Concordia battling Embry-Riddle at 5 p.m.
Faulkner starter Christian Torres was dominant through seven scoreless innings and earned the victory to improve to 7-1 on the season. Embry-Riddle’s Zac Grotz, who entered the game with a 0.65 earned-run average, took the loss to fall to 8-2. Castro’s save was his 10th of the year.
"We played hard and I thought I had pretty good stuff tonight," said Torres, who allowed two hits and three runs in the eighth before being replaced. "I just knew we were going to find a way to hang on and win. It got a little too exciting for all of us, but we stayed together and fought through it."
The Eagles broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth. Dario Polanco opened the inning with a single and one out later stole second. He moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Randy Joung’s hard groundout to first for a 1-0 Eagles’ lead.
Torres found himself in trouble for the first time in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs he hit Moreno, and Cavender followed with a single up the middle off of Torres’ pitching hand. McCarthy and trainer Lindsey Sharpe ran out to check on the Eagles’ pitcher, who lay on the ground holding his hand. After three pitches to check the health of his hand, the crafty left-hander coaxed Goodall into a ground ball to shortstop Edgar Figueroa to end the threat.
The Eagles then responded with some insurance in the top of the seventh. Chris Madera drove in the second run of the game with a sacrifice fly, and Llera’s RBI single pushed the advantage to 3-0. Faulkner added three more in the eighth, with Junior Santos driving in one and Madera adding a solo homer to give the Eagles’ a seemingly-comfortable 6-0 lead.
It was far from over, however, as Embry-Riddle got off the deck in its half of the eighth. Torres hit Hunter Bruehl to lead off the inning and then, with one out, surrendered back-to-back hits and the first run of the game for Embry-Riddle. Brian Bass came in in relief, and was greeted with a pair of hits that drove in three runs that trimmed the advantage to 6-4. McCarthy then turned to Torres, who got two fielder’s choice grounders to end the inning.
Faulkner pinch hitter Alexis Torres’ one-out single in the ninth led to the insurance run that proved to be the difference. He scored on an infield ground out by Figueroa, sending the Eagles to the wild and crazy bottom of the ninth with a 7-4 lead.
In addition to Morton’s and Madera’s two hits apiece, Polanco, Joung, Llera, Sos, Santos and Torres each had singles for the Eagles. Faulkner stole seven bases on seven attempts on the night, and the pressure applied on the base paths may have impacted Embry-Riddle fielders, who committed four errors in the game.
"It may not have been pretty late in the game, but a win is a win and we needed this one badly," Madera said. "We still haven’t hit the ball like we’re capable of, yet we’ve been getting great pitching for the most part. It’s a great feeling to be 2-0 so far, but there is still a very long way to go."