Late homer lifts N.C. State past JMU in NCAA women’s softball tourney

jmu logoLeft fielder Bethaney Wells hit a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to help lead North Carolina State to a 2-0 win over the James Madison softball team in the opening game of the Knoxville Regional in NCAA Tournament play on Friday.

The loss drops JMU to 41-16 on the season and into the losers’ bracket of regional play. The Dukes face the loser of the game between seventh-seeded Tennessee and Longwood at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The winner of that game advances to the second elimination game at 6:30 p.m. to determine who advances to the regional final. N.C. State won its 13th consecutive game, improving to 34-18-1 and advances to the winners’ bracket game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Right-hander Emily Weiman earned the win for the Wolfpack to improve to 32-16 on the season. She tossed a three-hit shutout in seven innings of work. The sophomore struck out one and did not walk a batter.

Freshman left-hander Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) took the loss for the Dukes, falling to 23-6 on the season. She tossed her 22nd complete game of the year, holding her opponent to two runs on three hits in six innings. The CAA Rookie of the Year struck out five and walked two.

Ford finished the game with 204 strikeouts on the season, becoming the first player in school history to amass 200 or more strikeouts in a season.

Wells paced the Wolfpack offense, going 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBIs and a run scored. Second baseman Chelsea Tate added a single in two trips to the plate while shortstop Renada Davis and designated player Hanna Sommer drew walks.

Sophomore left fielder Morgan Heath (Yorktown, Va./Grafton), freshman catcher Erica Field (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) and Ford recorded hits for Madison. Ford and Heath went 1-for-3 with singles while Field had a base hit in two at-bats.

The only runs of the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning on Wells’ two-run homer. Sommer started the rally by drawing a one-out walk and was pinch run for by Katie Mansilla. Ford got the next batter to strike out, but Wells drove a 1-1 pitch the other way for her eighth homer of the season.

Weiman retired the Dukes in order in the top of the seventh as she never let the tying run come to the plate.

This was JMU’s second appearance in the NCAA tournament after receiving the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid back in 2009. That season the Dukes also played in the Knoxville Regional and played against the University of Tennessee and Jacksonville State.

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