|PWF Game#1: Hatters Capture A-Sun Crown|
After posting a dramatic extra-inning victory over Campbell in the Atlantic Sun semifinal the night before, an excited Hatters squad returned to Patricia Wilson Field for Championship Saturday. Only two teams remained, and the Hatters knew they would have to defeat Gardner-Webb twice to capture the conference title, while the Runnin’ Bulldogs only needed to win once.
Stetson played as the home team in game one, and got off to a great start in the bottom of the first inning. Sherrel Fountain led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly to put Stetson in front 1-0.
The Hatters added to the lead in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run home run by Nicole Forbes, which gave Stetson a 3-0 advantage.
That was more than enough offense for Stetson pitcher Erica Demers, who was dominant from start to finish. The Hatter sophomore allowed just one hit, a one-out single in the top of the first inning, before retiring the final 20 batters in a row. She threw just 66 pitches, 49 for strikes, and her performance helped set up a winner-take-all championship game.
Stetson played game two as the visiting team, and again wasted no time jumping in front. Andrea Migliori’s RBI double in the first inning and a home run from Amanda Lindsey and RBI single by Fountain in the second put Stetson on top 3-0.
Stetson coach Frank Griffin stayed with his hot hand in the circle for game two, and Demers retired the first six batters she faced before giving up a solo home run in the bottom of the third. After three innings the Hatters led 3-1.
Stetson answered right back with two runs in the top of the fourth, both scoring on a surprise squeeze bunt from Migliori and a defensive error by Gardner-Webb. Halfway through the game Stetson held a 5-1 advantage.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs plated two runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth, and the lead shrunk to 5-3. After 11 brilliant innings of work, Demers was done for the day, and Griffin turned the game over to his senior, Heather Colding.
Gardner-Webb threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two runners on and two outs, Melody Harrell floated a soft liner into short right field, but Forbes chased it down and made a diving catch to end the inning.
“That catch was all instinct and adrenaline,” Forbes recalled. “I knew we just had to find a way to make an out. As I dove, I remember wondering why everyone was cheering. And then, I realized the ball was in my glove. It was a good day.”
Stetson then scored an unearned run in the top of the sixth to grab a 6-3 lead. With just six outs left to get, the excitement was building around the ballpark. The Hatters were so close to victory.
However, Gardner-Webb was not ready to concede, and Jessi Williams hit the team’s third home run of the game to pull the Runnin’ Bulldogs to within 6-4. The game moved to the seventh inning, still up for grabs.
A two-out walk to Migliori is all Stetson produced in the top of the frame, and with the championship just three outs away, the Hatters took the field for the bottom of the seventh hoping they would soon be celebrating.
However, the Runnin’ Bulldogs had one more rally left. A lead-off single by Haley Scism immediately brought the tying run to the plate. One out later Abbie Looper doubled into leftcenter field, sending pinch runner Lindsay Cox to third. Gardner-Webb had their number two and number three-hole hitters coming up with the tying runs in scoring position and the winning run at the plate. Despite trailing the entire day, Gardner-Webb was one swing away from taking the title.
Colding worked ahead of Jessi Polk before getting her to swing and miss at strike three, bringing the Hatters just one out away from the championship. Harrell then stepped up to the plate, setting up the most dramatic at-bat in Patricia Wilson Field history.
“I remember standing on the mound before the last hit thinking, ‘I got this, this is the pitch to seal the deal,’” Colding recalled. “I got up to the mound, threw the pitch and then watched the ball go up in the air and saying please catch it, please catch it!”
“All I was thinking with that last out was I wanted the ball,” centerfielder Amy Joyce recalled. “In my mind I was saying hit it to me, hit it to me. Then the ball actually came to me and I knew then I had to make the catch!”
Catch it she did, and with her arms raised she and her teammates stormed the infield where the celebration had begun.
“Running into the pitcher's circle after A.J. made that catch was one of the most gratifying experiences,” Lindsay Wightman recalled. “We, as a team, worked so hard and came together to make Stetson history. The team truly gelled together and we all clicked to have an outstanding year. Every player on the team had a role in winning that game.”
“After I caught the ball I just remember thinking WE WON! We get rings! We are moving on to regionals!" Joyce said. It was so unreal. I was so happy we won, Hoss (Colding) and Sherrel were amazing seniors and they deserved that moment.”
“We worked so hard that year and everything fell into place that game,” Colding said. “It was a great way to end my softball career and it was an amazing feeling to continue on to Regionals. It was a game I will never forget. We had an awesome team and awesome coaches and it all came together that year.”
Stetson’s 2007 Championship game victory over Gardner-Webb ranks as the Top Game in Patricia Wilson Field history.
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