May 21, 2006
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Freshman Lacey Richardson (8-6) tossed 4.0 solid innings, allowing just two earned runs, and freshman Whitney Haller smashed her 24th home run of the season, but fourth-ranked and top-seeded Alabama (52-9) ended Georgia Tech’s (48-22) season, 7-2, in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Softball Regional Championship Game on Sunday.
“We had some players out of position all season long and still managed to win over 40 games and make it to a NCAA Regional Championship game,” said Tech coach Ehren Earleywine. “I’m proud of our athletes and the way they performed this season. We had a tremendous pitching performance today, but our defense allowed them to score some unearned runs that hurt us.
“Alabama has a great team and you cannot play defense the way we did and expect to beat a team like that.”
UA’s Stephanie VanBrakle (27-5), the SEC Pitcher of the Year, defeated the Yellow Jackets for the second time in the regional tournament, throwing a complete game, allowing four hits, two runs and struck out nine. Dominique Accetturo drove in two runs, while Staci Ramsey hit a home run to lead the Crimson Tide bats.
“My hat is off to Georgia Tech for a great season,” said Crimson Tide coach Pat Murphy. “Ehren does a great job and they are one of the best hitting teams in the country. Steph did a great job today to hold them to four hits, but she’s been doing it all season.”
Alabama advances to the NCAA Super Regional next weekend and will host the winner of No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 2 seed Fresno State at the NCAA Fresno Regional. The Cardinal will have to defeat Fresno State twice on Sunday to advance.
Tech posed the first threat of the game as junior Caitlin Lever led off the second inning with a base hit to left field and stole second base with one out. The Jackets were unable to drive her in, hitting consecutive ground outs to shortstop.
The Crimson Tide threatened in the bottom half of the second inning on consecutive walks and moved up to second and third base with two outs on a deep fly ball to center field. Richardson got out of the jam with a ground out to second base as the game advanced to the third inning scoreless.
With first and third and no outs in the bottom of the third inning, the Crimson Tide stole second and scored a run on a wild throw by the Tech catcher as UA jumped out in front 1-0. Richardson retired the next batter with a big strikeout and induced a grounder to third base, but the Jackets overthrew home plate to allow the second unearned run of the inning to cross the plate. UA scored another run on three straight walks to push the advantage to 3-0.
Haller smashed her 24th home run of the season in the top of the fourth inning to bring the Jackets within two, 3-1.
Sophomore Aileen Morales and junior Daisy Paez hit consecutive singles to start the fifth inning for the Jackets as Tech had runners at first and third with no outs. Tech scored on a strikeout/wild pitch and sophomore Becky McCraw, who entered to pinch run for Paez, advanced all the way to third base on the play. The Crimson Tide recorded the second out of the inning on a failed suicide squeeze play and tallied a strikeout on the next pitch to end the threat and remain on top, 3-2.
UA’s Staci Ramsey connected on her11th home run of the season to lead off the bottom half of the fifth inning to increase the Crimson Tide’s lead to two, 4-2. Tech then made a pitching change in the circle as junior Sarah Wood entered for the Rambling Wreck. Accetturo drove in another run for the Tide on a sacrifice fly as the Jackets trailed by three, 5-2.
Alabama scored two more unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Tech first baseman mishandled a throw from second base with two outs which allowed runners to score from second and third to give the Crimson Tide a 7-2 victory.
Tech scored two runs, on four hits and committed four errors, while UA scored seven runs, on seven hits and had no errors.
NOTES: Tech reached 47 wins for the third consecutive season, and fourth time in the last five seasons … The Jackets set ACC single-season team records in runs scored (427), doubles (99), home runs (75), total bases (903) and slugging percentage (.495).