COLUMBUS, Ga. — The Lee softball team saw their season come to an end at the hands of Auburn University at Montgomery, 4-2 in the loser's bracket game of the NAIA Softball National Championship on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Flames had plenty of opportunities registering 11 hits in the contest but left 12 runners on base, including eight in the final three innings and could not overcome a three-run sixth inning by the Lady Warhawks.
"We had a tremendous season. This team has nothing to hang their heads about at all." remarked Lee coach Emily Russell. "They fought hard all season and played so well. "
Lee's senior shortstop Jennifer RIngle finished with three hits, while sophomore leftfielder Dominique Hannah and freshman designated player Lexie Dean added two hits each. Sophomore Laurel Allen added a double and drove in a run.
The Lady Flames took a 2-0 lead thanks to unearned runs in the third and fourth innings. AUM cut the deficit in half with a solo homer to left in the bottom of the fourth inning off the bat of Katie Spain.
Lee appeared to stretch the margin to two with a sacrifice fly to rightfield in the top of the sixth but the runner was called out at third for leaving earlier to end the threat. AUM responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a RBI double by Leslie Kelly and an errant Lady Flame throw. Kayla Hale followed with a base hit to center to push the advantage to 4-2.
Lee had one final opportunity in their final at bat of the year. Back-to-back singles by Ringle and junior Ana Coscorrosa appeared to set the table for a dramatic comeback. After a pop out and a fielder's choice, AUM starter Cassie Daniels was able to strike out the final batter to seal the victory.
"We just didn't get the timely hits. There was a questionable call that killed a rally that could have been a game changer for us." noted Russell.
Daniels (23-5) went the distance for the Lady Warhawks. In seven innings of work she gave up 11 hits but surrendered just two unearned runs while striking out seven batters.
Jessa Watts (6-3) started in the circle for the Lady Flames. Watts worked 5 1/3 innings giving up four runs on eight hits. She walked one and struck out a batter. Freshman Angie Hughes came on in relief to get the final two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Russell praised the play and example of this year's senior class, "I'm proud of our seniors for the way they have represented the school so well and been great ambassadors for Lee as well as the sport of softball. I'm proud to have coached them and excited about the future of our program. We are definitely heading in the right direction. I am heartbroken for the girls but these ladies have come so far and meant so much to the program."
Lee concludes the 2013 season and play in the NAIA with an overall record of 47-11. The Lady Flames will make the jump to NCAA Division II and the Gulf South Conference beginning next season.
WILLIAMS BAPTIST 3,
LADY FLAMES 1
The No.3-ranked Lee University softball team fell to Williams Baptist (Ark.) 3-1 in the opening round of the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship final site at the South Commons Softball Complex on Friday evening.
Eagles starter Karisa Hendrix (24-5) shut down the NAIA’s most powerful offensive over seven strong innings of work to key the victory for the sixth seeded team from Arkansas. The Lady Flames entered the game hitting at a national best .385 clip. Hendrix gave up just five hits, four of which were singles and one run. The right-hander entered the contest ranked second in the NAIA in opponent batting average (.146).
Lee’s Caroline MacAusland (16-5) was the tough luck loser. The freshman also went to the distance giving up just six hits while striking out four. MacAusland did not give up a walk and surrendered three runs (one earned).
Williams Baptist struck for all three runs in the fifth inning. Kirsten Gipson came off the bench and led things off with a single. After a sacrifice bunt, Brittany Merritt roped a single to center and advanced to second the throw. With runners on second and third, Felicia Woodard reached on an infield single that scored Gipson. Merritt would also reach home thanks to a Lee throwing error.
The Lady Eagles tacked on the final run of the inning when Lauren Sweeten was tagged out on a squeeze play, allowing Woodard to slide just under the tag of Lee catcher Meghan Macias.
The Lady Flames responded with a run in the bottom of the inning. After two quick outs, Laurel Allen reached on a bunt base hit. Dominique Hannah followed with a double to deep left to score the speedy Allen. Hendrix clamped down from there and got a fly-out to short circuit the Lee rally.
The final two innings saw just one combined base hit. Lee’s Dezirae Parsons ripped a single to right in the sixth for one of her two base knocks.