March 11, 2005
Miami - The Florida Atlantic University softball team used seventh-inning runs to win their opening two games Friday at the Blue and Gold Coca-Coca Classic hosted by Florida International. The Owls (10-19) edged Tulsa 3-2 in their first game before defeating FIU by the same score in the nightcap. Senior right-hander Candice Freel (7-6) picked up the win and drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning against Tulsa while senior Jessica Braggins was 4-for-6 with four RBI on the day and had the game-winning hit against FIU in the bottom of the seventh.
Against Tulsa, the Owls jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third when Braggins drove in Christina Thompson and Jessica Sachs with a single to left center. Thompson had earlier reached on a single, breaking a 1-for-24 slump the senior second baseman was mired in.
The Golden Hurricane hit back immediately in the bottom of the inning, cutting the lead to one thanks to an RBI single by Stacey Walkingstick, and then tied things up in the fourth on an Angela Osbon run-scoring single.
FAU starter Freel walked Lindsey Tower to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but got out of the jam when Julie Shafer was called out for interfering with shortstop Jenna Lopez on a ground ball.
Freel then helped her own cause by driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh.
Senior Jen Piazza doubled down the left field line and was moved over to third by a Lauren Crandall sacrifice bunt. Freel then hit a bloop single to left, but Piazza had to wait to see if the ball would drop before heading home. Left fielder Stephanie Sliepen picked up the ball on one hop and delivered the ball to the plate before Piazza arrived, but Piazza cleverly stepped over the attempted tag by catcher Kelly Miller to give the Owls the lead.
Freel walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the seventh but the Owls' defense made sure the error would not come back to haunt her when they closed things out with a double play.
In the final game of the day, Owls' starter Meghan Doonan pitched well, allowing only two runs on five hits, but her opposing starter Amanda Nealer was just slightly better, shutting out the Owls until the final inning.
FIU's runs came in the first and sixth and FAU only seriously threatened in two innings before the seventh, leaving two runners stranded in the fourth and the sixth. In the final inning, Nealer gave up back-to-back walks to plate the Owls' first run, and then Braggins hit a two-run bloop single to right that scored Jessica Sachs and pinch runner Ashley Greene to give FAU the come-from-behind victory.
The Owls continue tournament play on Friday with games against Quinnipiac at noon and Manhattan at 2 p.m. Live statistics from all games are available at www.fiusports.com.
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