COLUMBUS, Ga. – After a day-long rain delay, the Spring Hill College softball Badgers moved past 12th-ranked Belhaven University by a score of 7-2 in the semifinal round of the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Championship Tournament at R.G. Jones Field on Sunday afternoon.
Freshman All-Conference pitcher Caroline Sagrera (31-7) surrendered a solo home run down the left field line in the bottom of the 1st inning to BU second baseman Jordan Cole to tie the game at a run apiece as the Badgers had opened the game with a run via a wild pitch with the bases loaded by Lady Blazer starter Jessica Paris.
First baseman Elise deBruler untied the game in the top of the 4th inning when she led off the frame with line drive homer out of left.
Belhaven (35-12) moved the tying run to 3rd base in the bottom of the 4th inning, but Sagrera got out of the jam with her sixth strikeout of the game.
The Badgers broke out the long ball in the 5th inning as senior left fielder Katelyn Hinson smashed a two-run dinger to straight-away centerfield that was followed by a drive that bounced off the top of the fence and out of the park by freshman designated hitter Taylor Lahasky to make it a 5-1 advantage.
Lady Blazer right fielder Shelby Watson made it a 5-2 contest in the bottom of the 5th with a solo home run to left with one out and a 1-0 count, but sophomore right fielder Shea Blanchard crushed a leadoff homer out of left field to rebuild a four run Badger lead. Later in the frame, senior third baseman Mariha Partman scored off an infield error by the Blazers to make it 7-2 headed to the home half of the 6th inning.
Two pop-ups and a strikeout ended the game in the 7th inning as Sagrera allowed just three hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in the win. Belhaven's Katy Adair (12-6) took the loss in relief with six hits, two walks and four strikeouts in four innings.
Four Badgers recorded multiple hits in the game as Spring Hill belted out 12 total hits against four Belhaven pitchers.
With the win over Belhaven, the Badgers secured a bid to the NAIA National Championship Tournament's Opening Round for the first time since 2007.
The 15th-ranked Badgers (41-13) will next play at 2:15 p.m. EDT on R.G. Jones Field versus Lee University (43-9) in the SSAC Championship game. On Friday evening, Lee outlasted Spring Hill 5-1 in the quarterfinals and, therefore, the Badgers will need to win twice to secure the title while Lee needs just one win.