West Alabama Holds Off Late CSU Rally to Win 7-6
COLUMBUS– The final game of the first annual 2011 Hughston Sports Clinic Classic proved to be worth the wait Sunday evening, as West Alabama held off a late CSU rally to escape with a 7-6 victory at Cougar Field.
"Overall the tournament was a great success", said CSU head softball coach Brad Huskisson. We would like to thank the Hughston Sports Clinic and everyone involved for all they contributed to this year's tournament, without them this wouldn't have been possible."
UWA and Columbus State met twice on the diamond during this weekend's classic with both games decided by one run. Sunday's loss drops CSU to 6-2 on the young season, including a 4-2 mark this weekend, while West Alabama improves to 3-1 so far this year.
"West Alabama is a very good team and I'm proud of our team for hanging in there and battling the entire game", Huskisson later stated. "This loss falls squarely on my shoulders. I have to do a better job of getting us ready to play. We will go back to work tomorrow and get ready for another two games with a tough Carson-Newman team on Tuesday."
UWA got things going early on against CSU starter Erin Tyson. Anna Shartzer lined sharply to second for the first out of the game before Taylor Beck singled up the middle to give the Lady Tigers their first base runner of the night. Valeshia Fincher was hit by a pitch and Ashley Frost walked to load the bases for West Alabama with one out, bringing Jessica Powell to the plate.
Tyson would fan Powell looking, bringing up senior shortstop Kelli Hartley. Hartley would deliver as she ripped a bases clearing double into right center, giving West Alabama an early 3-0 lead.
The Lady Cougars looked to get things going in the home half of the first against UWA starter Katie Ford as Morgan Knight drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Following a Keeley Kennedy strikeout, Kara Gordon roped a single, moving Knight to third and advancing to second as the throw sailed home, giving CSU runners at second and third with one out. Ford would then fan Casey Googe and get Kristi Bullard to fly out to centerfield to end the inning.
CSU started to chip away at the lead in the bottom of the second by way of a little small ball. Morgan Staffins walked to lead off the inning and Kori Waugh would reach on an error to give the Lady Cougars first and second with no outs. Waugh and Staffins would each move up 60 feet following a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Kristin Gregory, bringing up Courtney Darr.
Ford would get Darr to strikeout, but the ball in the dirt forced UWA catcher Taylor Beck to throw the ball down to first to complete the strikeout. As the throw went down to first, Staffins broke for home, just beating the throw to give CSU its first run of the night, cutting the lead to 3-1. Waugh also moved up 60 feet on the play, advancing to third. A two-out walk by Morgan Knight led to some more offense for Columbus State as Knight sprinted down the line and got into a rundown between first and second long enough to allow Waugh to slide in at home just before Knight was tagged out to end the inning, cutting the UWA lead to 3-2.
The Tigers would respond in the top of the fourth with some offense of their own. Fincher reached on a walk and Powell reached on a fielder's choice to give UWA runners at first and second with one down, bringing up Hartley. The senior shortstop would deliver again as she laced another double into right center, plating both Powell and Fincher and advancing to third on the throw home.
West Alabama was not done yet as the next hitter up Meagan Sloke singled to right center, bringing home Hartley. UWA would add one more in the frame on another RBI single to jump back in front 7-2.
Columbus State would scratch across another run in the home half of third. Casey Googe lined a two-out double to left center to get things going. A wild pitch advanced Googe to third and senior Kristi Bullard singled to bring home Googe, making it a 7-3 ballgame.
Needing to slow down a potent UWA offense, Head Coach Brad Huskisson called on sophomore Kelsey Gilliam out of the bullpen in the fourth in hopes of trying to slow down the UWA bats, and Gilliam would do just that as she would retire UWA in order in the top of the fourth.
CSU would tack on another run in the fourth as they continued to try to fight back into the game. Waugh got things going with a walk, advancing to second on a Gregory groundout to the pitcher. Courtney Darr would then rip a double into the left center gap, scoring Waugh as Columbus State continued to inch closer at 7-4.
Gilliam would retire all of three West Alabama hitters in order once again in the 5th, giving the Lady Cougars another chance to swing the bats.
CSU would jump right on relief pitcher Kristin Skinner in the bottom of the 5th as Kara Gordon led things off with a single to center. Gordon would then steal second. Following a Casey Googe walk, things would get interesting once again. UWA would make a costly mistake as a pickoff attempt from UWA catcher Taylor Beck of Googe at first rolled into the right field corner, scoring Gordon and moving Googe around to third. Googe would then score on a wild pitch, just beating the wrap with a head first slide, making it a 7-6 ballgame.
Gilliam continued to baffle the West Alabama bats as Shartzer and Beck both flied out to give CSU two quick outs in the sixth. Gilliam would paint the black to fan Fincher looking to end the inning, retiring the Tigers in order once again.
After a scoreless sixth from both teams, Gilliam needed to hold UWA one last time to give Columbus State a chance to win it the seventh. Ashley Frost lined out sharply to start the inning, followed by a Powell double over the head of Waugh in right. A Hartley flyout would advance Powell to third before Gilliam would strikeout pinch-hitter Nicole Bailey swinging to end the UWA threat.
CSU was unable to scratch across a run in the bottom of the seventh as UWA reliever Kristin Skinner got Googe and Bullard to groundout and struckout Morgan Staffins to end the game, giving West Alabama the 7-6 win.
Following a no-hitter in her first collegiate outing, CSU starter Erin Tyson (1-1) suffered her first loss of the season as she went three innings allowing six earned, with two walks and two strikeouts. Gilliam was spectacular in relief, as she worked four innings, allowing just one hit while walking one and fanning two.
Kara Gordon led the CSU offensive attack as she was 2-for-4 on the evening with a single, double, and one run scored. Courtney Darr added a double with one run batted in. Kristi Bullard also registered an RBI single. Columbus State had six hits in the game.
UWA starter Kristin Ford picked up the win, tossing four innings, allowing four runs, only two of which were earned. Ford had four walks and two strikeouts. Skinner worked three innings in relief allowing just one hit and two earned runs.
Columbus State will be right back in action on Tuesday as Carson Newman comes to town for two games. First pitch is set for 1pm at Cougar Field.