|PWF Game#4: The 2008 A-Sun Title Game|
Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, GoHatters.com is counting down the Top 10 Games in Patricia Wilson Field history...
In the preview to this Top 10 Games feature we said we were not limiting the list to just Stetson victories, and this one (spoiler alert) unfortunately does not end well for the Hatters. However, this game rates extremely high on all the criteria used to select the list – significance, drama, and uniqueness. If you don’t know what happened, get ready for a doozy. You likely have never heard anything like it before and probably will never see or hear it happen again. It is without doubt one of the top games in Patricia Wilson Field history.
It was Championship Saturday and the 2008 Atlantic Sun Softball title was at stake. Stetson was the defending champion, but Campbell was in the driver’s seat. The Camels had knocked off Stetson 3-2 in the tournament opener, forcing the Hatters to fight their way out of the loser’s bracket, and fight they did. Stetson posted walk-off wins against Lipscomb and Mercer to earn a spot in the championship game for the third year in a row. Campbell stayed in the winner's bracket and was just one win away from their first A-Sun title since 1995. The Hatters would have to win two games to repeat as conference champions. The stage was set.
On a picture perfect evening in DeLand, Erica Demers was in the circle for the Hatters, and Brittany Stanley toed the rubber for Campbell. Stetson was playing as the visiting team.
Andrea Migliori collected a two-out single in the top of the first but the Hatters did not score. Campbell senior Courtney Quinn led off the bottom of the first with a double to left center but was stranded at second.
Stetson left two more runners on base in their half of the second, and Campbell threatened in their half of the inning. With Amanda Miller on first and one out, Keeli Michael singled to right, but Miller took too big a turn at second and was eventually thrown out 9-5-4. The first break of the game went Stetson’s way.
The Hatters went down in order in the top of the third. In their half of the frame, the Camels loaded the bases with two outs, but Karlie Love grounded out to end the inning. After three innings the game was still scoreless.
Stetson finally broke through against Stanley in the top of the fourth. Three consecutive singles from Lindsay Wightman, Blythe Golden, and Amanda Bailey put Stetson on top 1-0. The Hatters had delivered the game’s first punch.
Stanley escaped further trouble in the fourth and the Camels bounced right back in their half of the inning. Quinn delivered a two-out, two-run single, and Amanda Littlejohn singled home Quinn to give Campbell a 3-1 advantage. Momentum had not only shifted Campbell’s way, but the Hatters were now down by two runs with just three innings left to play.
Stetson had the top of the order due up in the fifth, but Stanley retired the side in order. Demers did the same in the bottom half of the fifth, and the score remained 3-1 Campbell after five.
Wightman and Golden were retired to start the sixth, and the Hatters were now down to their final four outs. Bailey kept the inning going with a double down the left field line, bringing Amanda Lindsey to the plate representing the tying run.
Two days earlier, Lindsey had helped the Hatters avoid elimination with a game-tying home run against Lipscomb. And once again, the Hatter sophomore delivered in dramatic fashion. On a 1-1 pitch, Lindsey belted one over the fence in left to tie the game 3-3. After fighting their way out of the loser’s bracket to get to Saturday, Stetson had now fought back in the championship game itself. Momentum had shifted again.
Stetson coach Frank Griffin brought Lindsey in to pitch the bottom of the sixth, and she recorded two strikeouts and a fly out off the bat of Quinn. The game moved to seventh, tied 3-3.
This time it was Campbell coach Drew Peterson’s turn to make some defensive changes, replacing Quinn in left with Kendall McDowell and Robin Leathers in right with Hillary Wheatley. Stanley remained in the circle, and despite walks to Amy Joyce and Migliori in the inning, she kept Stetson off the board in the top of the seventh. Campbell was coming bat needing one run to win the title.
After a lead-off ground out, Littlejohn made a bid for a walk-off homer but settled for a one-out double. After Shayla Cullum popped up, the Hatters walked Love intentionally. That brought up Miller with two on and two out. With the count full and drama about as intense as it could be, Lindsey recorded a crucial strike three. For the first time in 10 years, the Atlantic Sun Championship was going to extra innings.
Golden was hit by a pitch to lead off the eighth and moved to second on a ground out by Bailey. With Lindsey due up and first base open, Stanley did not give the Hatter slugger a chance to be the hero again and pitched her four straight balls. But Stetson could not drive in the go-ahead run, and once again Campbell had the opportunity to win in the bottom of the eighth.
The Camels put the winning run on right away as Michael led off with a single to right. With Wheatley, the sixth inning defensive replacement, due up, coach Peterson re-entered Leathers who popped up to the catcher. Lizzie Goldbach followed with a sacrifice, moving Michael to second and bringing up Quinn with two outs. The Campbell senior delivered a line drive base hit down the right field line that easily scored Michael with the winning run. The Campbell dugout emptied onto the field, and the championship celebration was on.
As the Hatters were walking off the field, coach Griffin came out of the dugout to talk to the home plate umpire, Roger Berube (The ball was clearly fair, so any argument to that effect wasn't going to hold up). After a brief discussion Berube took his line-up card out of his pocket and looked it over. A moment later he turned and walked over to where the Camels were still celebrating, raised his arm and signaled “out”. Quinn had not been re-entered and was batting illegally. She was ruled out, the run did not count, the inning was over, and the championship was still up for grabs. In a surreal juxtaposition, the Hatters started celebrating in front of their dugout.
There was no argument from the Campbell side either. Coach Peterson told his team to take the field for the top of the ninth.
To her credit, Stanley did not lose her composure for the Camels. Had Stetson come back to win the game at that point, the Hatters would have had all the momentum going into game two. But Stanley shut the door in the ninth and again in the 10th, and ironically it was Quinn – now legally reentered - to get the game-winning hit for Campbell in the bottom of the 10th. The craziest and most dramatic Atlantic Sun Championship game ever played was officially over.
"I screwed up big time back in the seventh," Peterson said after the game. "I am so thankful. I am so proud of these girls, they worked so hard all year...I am just extremely proud of them like crazy."
With all its drama, momentum swings, and unique turn of events, the 2008 A-Sun Softball Championship game ranks as the no. 4 Top Game in Patricia Wilson Field history.