May 8, 2003
TROY, AL -- Candice Freel took matters into her own hands with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to help lift Florida Atlantic University past Stetson University, 4-3, Thursday night at the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament in Troy, AL. Freel also picked up her 18th win of the season with a complete game victory.
More importantly, FAU stayed in the winner's bracket with the win and advances to face Central Florida, Friday, at 2:00pm EDT. With the loss, Stetson was ousted from the double-elimination championship.
FAU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a double by Pam Mazzarella. In the third, Michelle Shirah led off with an infield single and came around to score one out later on a double by Ginny Matthews. That gave the Lady Owls a 2-0 cushion that they would take into the fifth inning.
In the fifth, the Hatters scored three runs on four hits even though just two balls made it out of the infield. That put FAU down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth and marked the first time all day FAU trailed.
In the home half of the fifth, the Lady Owls threatened but left two runners on and still trailed by a run heading to the sixth. Freel retired all three batters she faced to set up the drama in the bottom of the inning.
Jessica Braggins led off with a single. Jaime Melton came on to pinch-run for Braggins. Ebony Gray followed with a pop-up on a bunt attempt which kept Melton at first with one out. Freel then stepped up and worked the count to 3-1 before driving the next pitch well over the left-centerfield fence for her first homer of the season. That put the Lady Owls up 4-3 heading to the seventh.
Freel had to battle through two fielding errors in the seventh inning, and five errors in all, before finally getting Carrie Cruit on a come-backer to end the game with runners at second and third.
Freel (18-11) allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits. She struck out three and walked one. She also stranded eight Hatters. The win was her third straight. Should FAU defeat UCF on Friday, it will advance to Saturday's championship game. The Lady Owls come into the tournament having won six consecutive A-Sun Tournament titles. The winner receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Other action on Thursday included Central Florida defeating Stetson, 8-5. Mercer defeated Troy State, 3-2. Jacksonville State, which lost to FAU 8-0, came back to defeat Troy State, 11-5, to eliminate the host Trojans. In the final game of the day, UCF came from behind to defeat Mercer, 4-3.
Friday's schedule following the FAU-UCF game pits Mercer vs Jacksonville State in an elimination game. The final game of the day will feature the loser of the FAU-UCF game against the winner of the Mercer-JSU game.
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