May 14, 2004
BOCA RATON, FL - Florida Atlantic University defeated UCF, 7-0, Friday night to advance to Saturday's title game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship at FAU Field in Boca Raton. Candice Freel, the A-Sun Pitcher-of-the-Year, pitched a two-hitter and her second shutout of the day as FAU fought off elimination for the second time.
The Owls will play either UCF or Stetson Saturday at 2:00pm as they attempt to capture their eighth consecutive A-Sun Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Earlier on Friday, FAU eliminated Troy State, 1-0, in nine innings behind a three-hit shutout by Freel.
The game was never in doubt from the outset as FAU wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard. Jessica Sachs led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice, and went to third on a groundout. Jessica Braggins followed with an RBI-single to center to drive in Sachs and make it 1-0.
In the second, FAU capitalized on three errors and a passed ball and scored three unearned runs. With the bases loaded and no outs and Sachs at bat, Jennifer Cavanaugh scored on a throwing error to make it 2-0. Callie Piper followed with a groundout to drive Ginny Matthews in as FAU led 3-0. With two outs, Braggins reached first after a strikeout and passed ball, allowing Sachs to score the fourth run of the game.
FAU added another run in the fifth on a fielder's choice-RBI by Amy Bellisari to make it 5-0. A sacrifice fly by Matthews in the seventh gave FAU a 6-0 lead before Freel scored on an error for the final run.
The runs were more than enough for Freel, who pitched another gem against UCF. She took a perfect game into the fourth and a no-hitter into the fifth before Jania Shinhoster led off with a single. Freel then struck out the next three batters to retire the side. Going back to FAU's 15-inning game against Stetson late Thursday, Freel pitched 30 and one-third innings in a 24-hour period to propel the Owls into the championship.
Freel improved to 26-8 on the year and pitched her 15th shutout. She struck out nine with no walks. The 26 wins tie Freel's career record for victories in a season set as a freshman in 2002.
Florida Atlantic will await the winner of the Stetson-UCF game, which is scheduled for Saturday at noon. Stetson defeated Mercer, 8-0, in five innings in the other game on Friday.