May 15, 2003
GAINESVILLE, FL -- A fateful first inning proved to be the difference as Florida Atlantic University began NCAA Tournament play Thursday morning in Gainesville, FL, against the University of South Florida. The no. 4 Bulls scored six times in their first at bat en route to a 7-3 victory over the no. 5 Lady Owls. The loss places FAU (42-27) in the loser's bracket where it will next face Bethune-Cookman in an elimination game Thursday night at 8:30pm.
USF (54-17) sent 12 batters to the plate in the first and scored six runs on seven hits, all singles, in taking command of the game early. Courtney Lewellen singled home Kattrina Dowd with one out to put the Bulls up 1-0. Holly Groves followed with an RBI-single to make it 2-0. Christie Chapman came up and lined to short in what looked like would be an inning-ending double play. Instead, a bad throw allowed runners to advance to second and third with two outs. Renee Oursler then reached on a throwing error by Jenn Piazza to allow the third run to score. With the inning prolonged, USF would go on to score three more times and took a 6-0 lead into the second.
"If we don't make those mistakes in the first and get out of it with just two runs scored, who knows what happens after that," said FAU head coach Joan Joyce. "Instead, we put ourselves in a big hole to start."
FAU had a chance to break through in the third when it loaded the bases with one out. However, consecutive pop-ups stymied the threat and kept the score 6-0.
In the fifth, Amy Bellisari led off with a single and came around to score on a two-out single by Piazza to make it 6-1 USF. The Bulls would respond with a seventh run in the bottom of the fifth to lead 7-1 heading to the sixth.
In the top of the sixth, it looked like the Lady Owls were primed for a big inning after they loaded the bases with no outs. Bellisari hit into a force play at home to keep the bases loaded with one out. Jessica Sachs also reached on a fielder's choice on a force play at home, but Callie Piper came home to score from second on an error by the Carmela Liwag at first. That pulled the Lady Owls within 7-2 but would be all they would score in the inning.
An infield single by Candice Freel in the seventh accounted for FAU's final run of the game. Freel finished 2-for-4. Ebony Gray and Pam Mazzarella also collected two hits in 2-for-3 efforts. The Lady Owls ended up leaving 11 runners on base and were outhit by a 10-9 margin.
"Although we gave up six runs in the first, I thought we came back and fought hard after that," said Joyce. "A hit or two in the right situation and it could have been an entirely different ball game."
"I was pleased with the way we were able to put runners on base and make opportunities for ourselves despite falling behind so early," added Joyce.
Freel (19-13) suffered the loss. She allowed seven runs, just three earned, on 10 hits in six innings of work. She struck out one and walked two. After the first inning, she retired 10 straight Bulls before allowing a lead-off walk in the fifth.
Leigh Ann Ellis picked up the win and improved to 34-9 on the year. She allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits in six innings. She struck out three and walked three.
Florida Atlantic is making its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and is searching for its first Women's College World Series appearance. In order to make it to the WCWS, the Lady Owls will have to win Thursday night, again on Friday, and twice on both Saturday and Sunday to capture the regional championship.
FAU takes on Bethune-Cookman Thursday night after the Wildcats were defeated, 5-1, by Oklahoma Thursday afternoon. FAU holds a 13-0 all-time record against BCC. The last time the two teams met was March 16, 2001.
Live audio and live stats of all of FAU's Regional games, including tonight's, are available on www.fausports.com.