Women’s softball: Liberty upsets South Carolina, reaches regional final

liberty baseballLiberty upset the host No. 11/10 South Carolina Gamecocks, 3-1, on Saturday at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field, advancing to the Regional Final for the first time in program history.

Liberty (49-12) extended the NCAA Division I’s longest active softball winning streak to 19 games in a row, dating to April 14. The Lady Flames are now 2-4 all-time in NCAA postseason play, downing No. 24/24 Hofstra, 2-0, in 10 innings last night before winning, 3-1, over South Carolina (46-15) today. Liberty advances to the NCAA Columbia Regional Final, and is one win away from making its first appearances in an NCAA Super Regional. Tomorrow at 4 p.m., the Lady Flames will face either South Carolina, Hofstra or UNCG in the Regional Final.

Liberty outhit South Carolina, 10-5, while the Lady Flames left 10 runners on base compared to four for the Gamecocks. The Lady Flames avenged a 12-1, six-inning defeat to South Carolina, March 2.

Julia DiMartino (29-7) earned the win, allowing one run on five hits, striking out nine in the complete-game effort. DiMartino has won each of her last 11 decisions.

Cayla Drotar falls to 20-6 on the season, yielding two runs on seven hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in three innings pitched. Kelsey Oh allowed one run on three hits, striking out two and walking one in three relief innings.

Sarah Robertson batted 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored, while Kaitlin McFarland went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Amber Bishop (2-for-4) doubled.

Five different Gamecocks recorded hits, all singles.

Mackenzie Boesel singled to right with one out in the top of the first. Following a strikeout, Boesel swiped second base, but was left there when VanDerveer popped out.

Autumn Bishop dropped a single into shallow center to lead off the bottom of the first inning. After a pair of fielder’s choice grounders, Jaclyn Amader stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Robertson sent an RBI single down the line in right, making it 1-0, Liberty. Drotar fanned Madison Via for the third out.

Taylor Hoffman led off the bottom of the second by singling on the infield, but Drotar retired the next three batters.

Liberty got something going in the third, as singles by Amber Bishop and Amader gave the Lady Flames runners on second and third with nobody out. With one out, McFarland sent an RBI single to left. Via then drew a walk, loading the bases for pinch hitter Tori Zavodny, who grounded into a fielder’s choice. An Alexia Taylor flyout ended the inning with Liberty leading, 2-0.

Oh came on in relief of Drotar to begin the bottom of the fourth, pitching a scoreless inning.

Robertson hit a single to left to lead off the Liberty fifth. Via then lined a double to the left-center gap. Hoffman bunted to third, and Robertson scored from third on a close play for a 3-0 Lady Flames lead.

DiMartino retired 16 straight batters, spanning the first through sixth innings before Kenzi Maguire’s two-out single in the sixth. The next batter popped out, keeping the Gamecocks off of the board.

Autumn Bishop drew a one-out walk in the sixth inning and Amber Bishop followed with a double to left. However, Ohio got out of the jam, keeping the score at 3-0.

Drotar led off the seventh with a sharp single to left. DiMartino quickly retired the next two batters. Kumiyama then singled, and Johns broke the shutout bid with an RBI single to left. DiMartino struck out Krystan White looking, and her ninth strikeout of the game sent Liberty in to the Regional Final.

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