Gainesville, Fla. -- In season full of come-from-behind victories, the Hatters picked an amazing time to pull off their most dramatic comeback of the year.
Stetson scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning, plating the tying run with two outs, then scored two more in the eighth to defeat UCF 6-4 in the opening round of the NCAA Gainesville Regional Friday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Jessica Griffin's two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh kept the game alive, and Jessie TenBroeck singled home Brittany Hawn with the eventual winning run to lift Stetson to its first-ever NCAA postseason victory.
The Hatters (39-12) advance to play Florida in a winner's bracket game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"This team is so special, I may never have the same chemistry that I have with these players," Stetson head coach Frank Griffin said. "They are always pulling for each other, and they are always pulling for the coaches and vice-versa. It is a real pleasure to see them win and be successful."
Stetson trailed 2-0 in the top of the sixth when Meredith Owen led off with her 15th home run of the season, an opposite field drive over the right field wall.
UCF (41-17) appeared to put the game away with a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
However, Stetson was not ready to concede. Pinch-hitter Morgan Hatch drew a lead-off walk in the seventh, and TenBroeck followed with a perfectly placed bunt single. After Chrissy Morello moved the runners with a ground out, Demi Meza lined a two-run single to rightcenter field to cut the lead to 4-3. Owen then walked, but a strikeout put Stetson down to its final out. Up stepped Jessica Griffin with the game on the line.
"That first pitch came in and I let it go, and coach Griffin looked at me and gave me the hit-and-run (sign)," Jessica Griffin said. "He knew as long as he told me to swing the bat I was going to do it. It was so exciting, and I was so glad I could come through for the team."
Griffin laced a single to center, and Meza beat the throw home to pull the Hatters even.
"I gave Jess the hit and run but held my runners," Frank Griffin said. "I wanted her to swing the bat and she did. It tied the game up, and gave us some confidence."
Left fielder Courtney Brandt made two tough catches in the bottom of seventh to help send the game to extra innings. The Hatters wasted little time breaking the tie in the eighth as Hawn walked, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on TenBroeck's single to center. TenBroeck would steal second and score an insurance run on Morello's line drive single to left field.
"The first six innings we had several opportunities but we just continued to leave runners in scoring position," said Frank Griffin, who coached in his 1000th game at Stetson. "It was very frustrating. In the end, when it had to be done, they got the job done."
Owen (27-7) retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth to record the victory, despite allowing a season-high four earned runs. She walked two and struck out five.
"Obviously I didn't have my (best) stuff on the mound, but they just had my back the entire game," Owen said. "That is just an awesome feeling, to know my team has my back no matter what they are not going to give up on me."
It was Stetson's 14th come-from-behind victory of the season, and the team's second win when down to its last out.
Notes: Meredith Owen tied the school-record with her 27th victory of the season ... Owen's home run also tied the school single-season team record (45) ... Chrissy Morello extended her hitting streak to nine games ... Owen extended her reached-base streak to 15 games ... Brittany Hawn extended her errorless streak to 31 games (95 chances) ... Stetson and UCF combined for four runs in two games in the regular season, but scored 10 combined runs on Friday ... The Hatters improved to 10-2 when their opponent scores a first-inning run.