RADFORD, VA. Coastal Carolinas softball team (38-20) used a dramatic Ashley Gerdts (Colorado Springs, Colo./Air Academy) three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat Radford (40-22) 5-3 in the championship game of the Aeropostale Big South Softball Tournament on Saturday, May 13 in Radford, Va. The Lady Chanticleers advanced into the NCAA Softball Tournament for the first time since 2002. The official announcement of who the Lady Chants play and where will be on May 14 at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN News. Coastal has now won eight games in a row and 37 of its last 45 games.
After the Highlanders had pulled ahead in the top of the eighth inning with a run, senior Katey Allen (Lewiston, Idaho/Lewiston (Albertson Coll.) was placed on second due to the international tie breaker rule. Senior Meagen Johnson (Georgetown, S.C./Georgetown (Furman)) was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second, and freshman Brittany Birnbaum (Chino Hills, Calif./Ayala) came in to pinch run for Johnson. Redshirt junior Christine Doyle (Rio Rico, Ariz./Immaculate Heart Academy) moved Allen and Birnbaum over a base with her sacrifice bunt. Ashley Gerdts then blasted her game-winning dramatic three-run home run over the left-centerfield fence to give Coastal a 5-3 victory and the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Highlanders took the early lead with a run in the first inning. Ashley Carlson walked to start the game. After a foul out, Cassie Rhodes hit a single deep in the hole at shortstop to advance Carlson to second. Radford's Ashley Taylor struck out for the second out. Amanda Walling then hit a single up the middle into centerfield to plate Carlson with the first run of the game. It was the first run Coastal pitching has given up the entire tournament.
CCU tied the game up with a Kelly Feely (Livermore, Calif./Granada) two-out, solo home run in bottom of the frame. For Feely, it was her seventh home run of the season and third RBI of the tournament.
The Lady Chanticleers took the lead in the third inning. Senior Sara Hostetler (Albuquerque, N.M./Valley) led off the frame with a bunt single. She and redshirt junior Glynn Tolleson (Tomball, Texas/Tomball (Radford)) exchanged places on the fielder's choice. Feely and Johnson walked back-to-back to load the bases with one out. Senior Brittany Nelson (Flower Mound, Texas/Marcus) reached on a one-out error by the RU shortstop that scored Tolleson from third to give Coastal the lead. However, the threat ended without any more damage, as Ashley Gerdts grounded to the RU shortstop where they took out the lead runner Feely out at home, while a fly out by junior Kristina Sheppard (Galveston, Texas/Ball) ended the frame for CCU.
The Highlanders tied the game with a run in the fourth inning. Jessica Everhart's two-out walk put a runner on first. Casey Marin pinch ran for Everhart at first. With two strikes, Shelby Rector was forced to leave the game with an injury, as she fouled a ball off her body. Michelle Carlson was called upon to bat in difficult situation and with two outs and two strikes, but she came through with double down the left field line to score Marin from first to tie the game at two all.
The game was tied through regulation and went to the international tie breaker rule. Michelle Carlson was placed on second to start the inning. She put herself in a run down and was eventually tagged out at third by Allison Cantrell (McDonough, Ga./Eagle's Landing) on a ball hit to third by Anne Tatum. Tatum advanced to second in the run down. A fielder's choice advanced Tatum to third and she came in to score the lead run on an error by the CCU third baseman for the go-ahead run and setting up the dramatic finish in the bottom of the inning.
Doyle (20-7) won her third game of the tournament with four innings of no-hit relief. Doyle was named the Aeropostale Big South Tournament MVP for her performance in the tournament. Joining Doyle on the All-Tournament team was Feely, Hostetler and Tolleson. In the three game tournament, Doyle was 3-0 with a 0.00 earned-run average and only allowed six hits with 10 strikeouts. Hostetler was 4-for-10 in the tournament with two game-winning RBI. Feely hit .286 with a tied for team-best three RBI. Tolleson hit .333 and handled a pitching staff with a team ERA of 0.64.
Coastal will find out who they play and where in the NCAA Tournament at the softball selection show on ESPN News, hosted at Beef O'Brady's on Sunday, May 14 at 3:30 p.m.
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