May 10, 2003
TROY, AL -- Florida Atlantic University swept a pair of games from Central Florida, Saturday, to win the Atlantic Sun Conference Softball Championship in Troy, AL. FAU defeated UCF, 6-5, to force a second game in which it won, 5-1. FAU has now won seven consecutive A-Sun championships and receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will be the Lady Owls' fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. FAU also set a new A-Sun record for consecutive championships in any sport.
Jenn Piazza belted a three-run homer in the top of the fifth of the championship game to pave the way for the Lady Owls. The homer was her third of the tournament and helped her earn MVP honors. Candice Freel, Amanda Morin, Pam Mazzarella, Ginny Matthews, and Jessica Sachs also were named to the All-Tournament team.
FAU entered the day knowing it had to sweep two from the Golden Knights if it was going to extend its string of six straight A-Sun Tournament titles. The Lady Owls wasted no time in reaching that goal as they took a 1-0 lead in the first tinning of the first game. Matthews reached on a one-out double, and Mazzarella followed with a double of her ownto drive in Matthews.
In the third, UCF loaded the bases with one out. Rachelle Schmidt then hit into a force play at home for the second out. However, Dottie Cupp singled to drive in two runs and give the Golden Knight a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth, Ebony Gray led off with a home run to left to tie the game at 2-2. It was Gray's sixth homer of the season. Later in the inning with two outs and runners at first and third, Matthews doubled to score both and give FAU a 4-2 lead.
In the sixth, Mazzarella added a two-run single with two outs to make it 6-2. It would prove to be invaluable as Pysha Simmons hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to pull the Golden Knights to within 6-5. However, Freel retired Lindsey Bush for the final out to clinch the victory.
Freel (19-12) went the distance, allowing five runs on seven hits. She struck out four and walked four.
FAU scored early in the second game, as well. Piazza gave FAU a 1-0 lead with a two-out single in the top of the first that scored Sachs.
UCF countered with a home run by Lindsey Bush in the third to tie the game at 1-1. However, with two outs in the fourth, Amy Bellisari singled to score Jaime Melton and put the Lady Owls up for good at 2-1.
In the fifth inning, FAU broke it open as Matthews doubled with one out. Mazzarella followed with a single before Piazza lined a homer over the leftfield fence to put FAU up 5-1. It was Piazza's third homer of the championship and eighth of the year.
Amanda Morin was sensational for FAU in the circle. She won her 13th consecutive game, and improved to 21-11 on the year. She finished the year with a perfect 12-0 record against A-Sun competition. She allowed one run on five hits and struck out nine with no walks.
FAU upped its all-time A-Sun Tournament record to 33-6. The championship extended FAU's record streak that started in 1997. The Lady Owls became the first team since 1996 to win the championship while being sent to the loser's bracket on the second day.
Florida Atlantic will now wait until Sunday's night's NCAA Tournament selection show to see what regional it will be participating in. This year marks the first year the NCAA Tournament field is expanding from 48 to 64 teams. Eight regional sites have already been announced. They include Tuscaloosa, AL (Alabama), Tucson, AZ (Arizona), Fullerton, CA (CS-Fullerton), Gainesville, FL (Florida), Fresno, CA (Fresno State), Ann Arbor, MI (Michigan), Lincoln, NE (Nebraska), and Austin, TX (Texas).
Eight teams will be placed in each regional. The Lady Owls will hold their selection show party at Duffy's in Boca Raton Sunday night at 9:30.