HARDEEVILLE, S.C. – The 15th-ranked Spring Hill College softball team used two home runs and an excellent pitching performance to force the 9th-ranked University of South Carolina-Beaufort (USCB) Sand Sharks into a deciding game with a 4-0 win in Wednesday morning session of the 2013 NAIA National Championship Tournament's Opening Round at Richard Gray Baseball/Softball Complex.
The Badgers opened the game hot with a leadoff double by sophomore right fielder Shea Blanchard and senior third baseman Mariha Partman blasted a two-run homer to straight-away centerfield.
After SHC starter Caroline Sagrera (34-9) escaped a 1st-and-2nd base situation with a strikeout in the bottom of the 1st frame, the freshman right hander settled into a classic pitching duel with USCB starter Kristy Cook (22-1).
The Sand Sharks (43-5) collected two one-out singles in the bottom of the 6th inning to put runners at 1st and 2nd, Sagrera fought out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts to maintain her 2-0 advantage heading into the final inning.
Freshman shortstop Sam Leach blasted her second home run of the year and second of the season to make it a 4-0 game as junior second baseman Raleigh Downs, who reached base on a double with two outs, also scored on the round-tripper.
Sagrera tied an SHC season record with her 18th shutout of the season off just three hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. Cook went the distance and suffered her first loss of the year with four hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
Spring Hill (44-15) will now face USCB in a deciding game at 3 p.m. EDT with a spot in the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship Final Site in Columbus, Ga., on the line.