Jessica Braggins - Tournament MVP
March 13, 2005
Miami, Fla. - The Florida Atlantic University softball team completed a perfect weekend at the Blue and Gold Coca Classic by defeating Quinnipiac and Florida International 3-2 on Sunday to win the tournament. The Owls (14-19), who went 6-0 in the five-team event, won both games in walk-off fashion. Senior Jessica Braggins won the Tournament MVP award after going 9-for-18 with a home run and eight RBI while sophomores Jenna Lopez and Meghan Doonan and junior Danielle Arriaga were named to the All-Tournament team.
The championship game 10-inning victory against the Golden Panthers (18-12) was a superb contest from start to finish with both teams having numerous chances to put the game away.
Thing started brightly for the Owls when they almost took the lead in the bottom of the first. With Arriaga on second, Braggins hit a slow grounder behind second base and just beat out the throw to first. Arriaga attempted to score on the play but was called out at home on a close call after she appeared to slide under Marleah Stapf's tag.
The Owls did finally break the deadlock in the bottom of the fifth. With Jen Piazza on second, FAU starter Candice Freel hit a grounder to third that managed to sneak through the legs of FIU third baseman Tabitha Embry and into left field. Piazza rounded third and easily beat the throw home by Cassie Parker to make 1-0.
In the top of the sixth, Jenna Lopez came to Freel's rescue with her second spectacular diving catch of the day in center field and sophomore catcher Courtney Raney continued her fine defensive play two batters later by throwing out Dee Joy trying to steal second.
Things looked ominous for FIU in the top of the seventh as they were down to their last strike, but Ashley Falk reached out and poked an RBI single to right field, scoring Embry from second and sending the game to the bottom of the seventh tied at 1-1.
The Owls then wasted a great chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh. FAU had the bases loaded and no outs, but FIU starter Amanda Nealer struck out two and got a force play at home to send the game to extras.
FIU had a similar bases-loaded situation in the eighth, but force plays at home and at third put the inning to bed.
The Golden Panthers took their first lead of the game in the top of the ninth when Embry scored on a fielding error, but the Owls hit right back in the back in the bottom of the inning, tying things up on an RBI double to the right field wall by Pam Mazzarella.
Doonan, on in relief of Freel, got out of the 10th unscathed and would have to pitch no more as the Owls finished things off in the bottom of the tenth. Jenna Lopez moved runner Lauren Crandall over to third with a sacrifice bunt and then Crandall scored the game-winning run on a fielding error by the FIU first baseman Ruiz.
In the day's earlier game against Quinnipiac, the Bobcats used a fifth-inning throwing error by the Owls to take a 2-0 lead.
With one out and runners on first and second, what looked like a simple 4-3 groundout quickly turned into a mess. After taking the flip from Christina Thompson for the second out, Mazzarella tried to catch Charron LeTarte napping at third but her throw was way off the mark and rolled out of play, allowing both runners to score.
The Owls loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth, but Kristin Sherriff, on in relief of starter Kim Norman who took a line drive in the face, struck out the Owls' two hottest hitters in Arriaga and Braggins to end the inning.
The Bobcats almost extended their lead in the top of the seventh but with runners on the corners and two outs, center fielder Jenna Lopez went horizontal to make the catch for the third out.
To lead off the bottom of the seventh, Raney snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a double down the left field line. Pinch runner Jennifer Cavanaugh was then moved over to third as Jenna Lopez reached safely on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
With next batter Jessics Sachs up, Lopez stole second to bring the winning run into scoring position. Sachs then laced a pitch through the left side, scoring Cavanaugh to tie the game at 2-2, before causing some chaos in the Bobcat infield by purposely stranding herself between first and second.
Although Sachs' presence was meaningless with the potential game-winning run standing on third, Quinnipiac first baseman Sammi Allendorfer decided to try and start a run-down by throwing towards second base, but her throw went into center field, allowing Lopez to score.
The Owls return to action on Tuesday with a home doubleheader against Quinnipiac starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for youths and seniors. Live statistics from both games will be available on www.fausports.com.
NOTES: The last six contests against FIU have been decided by one run...with her sacrifice fly against Quinnipiac, Braggins moved up to a tie for third in the FAU career list with five...the six-game win streak for the Owls is their longest since April 2004.