Fort Myers, Fla. – USC Upstate benefitted by three costly errors to score an A-Sun record nine runs in the sixth inning to take a 9-1 victory over Lipscomb in the Championship Game of the A-Sun Tournament Saturday afternoon at the FGCU Softball Complex. The Spartans have secured the A-Sun’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will make their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regionals.
Upstate improved to 43-8 on the year with the win and will gather at Buffalo Wild Wings in Spartanburg Sunday night to watch the NCAA Selection Show at 10 p.m. on ESPNU to see where the Spartans will be going in the NCAA Tournament.
“I am really proud of our seniors. They played like experienced warriors the whole day and there was no denying them for what they worked so hard for this year,” said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. “Lexi did an excellent job as usual and I am so proud of her. That sixth inning was probably the most fun inning I have had in my career.”
Lipscomb (31-25) struck first to grab an early lead in the first inning. After Upstate starter Lexi Shubert struck out Brittany Elmore to begin the game, Paige Neely and Mimi Cartwright hit back-to-back doubles with Neely coming home to score and give the Bisons a 1-0 lead. It was all the Bisons would get off of Shubert on the day.
Upstate looked to get the run back in the bottom of the first. The Spartans put runners on first and second with one out and first and third with two outs, but Lipscomb starter Tanner Sanders (13-12) got a line out to second to end the inning and the threat.
Upstate mounted a threat in the third inning. Shellie Robinson walked with one out and Hayley Reinfeld chopped an infield single to put runners on first and second. However, Sanders got a fielder’s choice ground out and a fly out to end the threat and keep the Bisons in front.
Upstate benefitted by three Lipscomb errors to not only vault into the lead, but end the game in the sixth. With no outs, Aly Schneider reached on a dropped fly ball in right field and motored around to third on the play. Karla Beasley lifted a fly ball to center to score Schneider with the sacrifice fly and tie the game at 1-1.
The Spartans went on to load the bases on an error, walk and single. Lindsey Greeson then sent a slow roller to third, but the throw was in the dirt and skipped away to allow Dana Landers and Cheyenne Griffin to score. A batter later, Robinson cranked a three-run home run to open a 6-1 advantage. Kendall Settlemyre drove in a pair of runs on a single and Beasley then scored on a passed ball to give the Spartans a 9-1 win as the game ended by the run rule.
“We capitalized on every opportunity we had to score runs. It was a really good feeling seeing Karla score to end the game and realize that we won the tournament and were going to the NCAA Regionals again,” said Hawkins.
Shubert turned in another strong outing in the circle for Upstate and earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors. She allowed one run on three Lipscomb hits to improve to 33-5. She was 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA in allowing just two runs in three games in the tournament. She struck out 24 batters in the tournament, seven on the day. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Schneider, Beasley and Robinson.
“I am so glad that we do not have to sit and wait to see if we made it into the Regionals,” said Hawkins. “We are excited to see what new place we get to go to in the seniors’ last journey with this team. With the experience that we have, I think we will play tough anywhere we go.”
- Upstate has made three appearances in Championship Saturday at the A-Sun Tournament. The Spartans have faced Lipscomb all three times. The Spartans are now 2-1 in securing the tournament championship.
- Upstate is now 6-4 all-time against Lipscomb in the A-Sun Tournament.
- With one walk today, Shellie Robinson has walked seven times in the A-Sun Tournament. The four walks against Lipscomb Friday established a new A-Sun Tournament single-game record.
- With seven strikeouts today, Lexi Shubert finished the A-Sun Tournament with 24 in 18 innings of work.
- Upstate has now won five games in a row over Lipscomb in the A-Sun Tournament.
- Upstate outscored its opponents 26-2 in A-Sun Tournament.
- The nine runs scored by the Spartans in the 6th inning established a new A-Sun Tournament record for runs in an inning.