May 24, 2010
Decatur, Ala. - The wait is over.
After three long years of disappointment on the season's biggest stage, Shorter College's Lady Hawks finally earned a chance to play for the big trophy.
No. 10-ranked Shorter broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with a clutch, two-out RBI double from Charlsie Broome and got a third straight stellar pitching performance from Libby Munson en route to a 2-1 win over seventh-ranked Point Loma Nazarene University in the final game of Pool G play at the 2010 Softball National Championship in Decatur, Ala.
The win propels the Lady Hawks (50-14) out of Pool G and into the eight-team, double-elimination national tournament that begins tonight at 9 p.m.
It is the first time that Shorter has advanced out of pool play in program history. The Lady Hawks, who are in the midst of their fourth straight appearance at the championship, were denied a chance to emerge from their pool last season by then-defending national champion Lubbock Christian after starting pool play 2-0.
The victory also marks the third 50-win season in four years for head coach Melanie Carter, who now stands just six wins away from 200 for her Shorter career.
Shorter was determined not to repeat its 2009 fate this time around - the Lady Hawks were no-hit by the Lady Chaps last season after outscoring their first two opponents 15-0.
The Lady Hawks, who had pounded out 15 hits in their first two Pool G victories over No. 22 MidAmerica Nazarene and Ottawa University, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Munson sacrifice fly to center that plated Tiffany Adams.
It was the first run given up by Point Loma ace Tyler Lent since the sixth inning of the Sea Lions' first game of the 2010 Championship and the first time Point Loma (30-15) had trailed all tournament.
Lent, a senior and All-GSAC selection, settled down, however, holding the Lady Hawks hitless over the next three frames. With their pitcher keeping Shorter in check, the Sea Lions finally pinned a run on Munson in the fourth, using a Jenel Guadagno RBI groundout to second to knot the score at 1-1. The tally ended Munson's streak of 17 shutout innings to begin the tournament. Needing an answer, Shorter turned to a pair of players that had stepped up at different points throughout the season.
Lent sat down the first two Lady Hawk batters to start the bottom half of the fifth, but Hannah Strength, who came into the game batting .377 out of the nine hole in the lineup, laced a two-strike, two-out single up the middle for Shorter's first hit since the opening frame.
That left matters up to Broome, a player that started the season as a reserve and eventually earned a spot at the top of the order when the Lady Hawks were in need of a leadoff batter.
Broome, whose two-out RBI in the sixth against MidAmerica proved to be final blow needed to upend the Pioneers on Thursday, ripped a double to left center on the first pitch she saw from Lent. Strength motored around to score and put the Lady Hawks ahead 2-1.
With a late lead then in hand, Munson stepped into the fore, allowing just one hit in the top of the sixth and then mowing down the Sea Lions in order in the seventh, closing out the GSAC power with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Trisha Sappington.
Munson finished with six strikeouts - she now has 16 for the tournament - against no walks. Shorter, which was out-hit 5-3 by the Sea Lions, made the most of its opportunities with hits from Adams, Broome and Strength.
For Coach Carter, the road to this point has been a long one that was certainly well worth the wait.
The former University of Alabama-Huntsville standout guided the Lady Hawks to 50-win seasons in each of her first two years at Shorter. A 44-16 record last season accompanied a second straight Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament title and third straight SSAC championship overall - the Lady Hawks won the league's regular season crown in 2007, her first year as head coach.
But Carter and her team had never been to the next level, a place where they will begin competing later tonight against the Pool B matchup between Trevecca Nazarene University and SSAC rival and No. 2-ranked Lee University.