|PWF Game#2: The 2007 A-Sun Semifinal|
Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, GoHatters.com is counting down the Top 10 Games in Patricia Wilson Field history...
This story starts in 2006, when the Hatters put forth their best season in school history. Stetson won 45 games, won the A-Sun regular season title, and earned the no. 1 seed for the conference tournament. After winning four games in the postseason and battling out of the loser's bracket, the Hatters fell just a few outs short of their ultimate goal in the winner-take-all championship game against Florida Atlantic.
Flash forward to 2007 - the Hatters were once again playing as the number one seed and now hosting the A-Sun tournament for the first time at Patricia Wilson Field. Anything short of winning the championship would be a disappointing finish to the season.
Stetson won twice in the opening day of the tournament to advance to the winner’s bracket semifinal. There, no. 2 seed Gardner-Webb played the role of spoiler, handing Stetson a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in 11 innings. For the second year in a row the Hatters’ were forced to play their way out of the loser’s bracket.
So while the Runnin’ Bulldogs had the rest of the day off and awaited their championship game opponent, Stetson had to return to the field that night and attempt to stave off elimination against Campbell.
The pitching match-up featured Stetson sophomore Amanda Lindsey and Campbell junior Lauren Caviness. In the first inning, each team put runners on second and third with one out but neither was able to plate the first run of the game. The Camels, playing as the home team, had a runner reach third in each of the first three innings, and had nine base runners in the first five innings combined, but Lindsey and the Hatters kept Campbell off the board.
In the top of the sixth, a two out double by Nicole Forbes brought Andrea Migliori to the plate, and Campbell coach Drew Peterson wasted no time on putting the Hatter slugger on intentionally. That brought junior Lindsay Wightman to the plate, but Caviness got Wightman to foul out to second and the score remained deadlocked.
Stetson coach Frank Griffin turned the ball over to Erica Demers in the bottom of the sixth, and the Hatter sophomore set the Camels down in order for the first time in the game. The win-or-go-home game had gone to the seventh still scoreless. The tension in the ballpark was building.
Stetson mounted a two-out rally in the seventh, putting runners at first and second for Amy Joyce. The Hatter freshman sent a liner into left-center field, but Jessica Huffman tracked it down for the third out of the inning.
Frustration was setting in on the Hatters’ side, and Campbell was one run away from moving on to the championship.
The Camels had the top of their order due up in the bottom of the seventh, but again Demers retired the side 1-2-3 to send the game into extra innings.
"I remember that the game was getting into late innings and we were tied," Wightman recalled. "There were few hits, and each inning was going fairly quickly. I distinctly remember thinking that this game is going to be won with a single home run. The pitchers for each team were pitching too well for there to be a big inning, with multiple hits and a sting of runs."
Caviness, who shutout ETSU in the preceding game, had pitched an incredible 14 scoreless innings on the day. Not knowing how many innings were left in this game, Peterson went the bullpen to call on freshman Brittany Stanley. Although no one knew it at the time, Stanley would go on to win eight straight games in the 2008 and 2009 A-Sun tournaments at Patricia Wilson Field, winning MVP titles both years. That night, however, belonged to the Hatters.
In the top of the eighth, Stanley retired both Sherrel Fountain and Forbes on comebackers to the circle. Migliori also sent a sharp grounder back Stanley’s way, but this time she was unable to field it cleanly and the Hatters had a two-out baserunner.
That brought Wightman to the plate, who worked the count in her favor to 2-0.
"When I was up to bat I remember the pitcher busting me inside, and that on the next pitch I would need to keep my hands inside the ball to hit it with any power," Wightman said. "I saw the pitch and I swung, kept my head down and it felt great off the bat. When I looked up to start running, I heard the crowd and watched the ball travel high into the outfield. I knew it had a chance to go over…..then it sailed over the scoreboard. In all my games I don't think I've hit any ball farther then that. The most ironic thing about those late innings is that I never once thought that I would be the one hitting the ball over the fence to win the game."
Demers did her part in the bottom of the eighth, finishing three perfect innings of relief.
"I remember after the final out of the inning the team rushed the field," Wightman said. "I couldn't believe it - we were moving on to the finals!"
Stetson had survived a tough elimination game and had advanced to the Atlantic Sun Championship. But the Hatters knew they were going to have to beat a tough Gardner-Webb team twice on championship Saturday, and that story will come tomorrow.
Lindsay Wightman’s eighth inning home run against Campbell and Stetson’s 2-0 victory in the A-Sun semifinals rank as the No. 2 Top Game in Patricia Wilson Field history.
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