HARDEEVILLE, S.C. – The 15th-ranked Spring Hill College softball team outlasted the 9th-ranked University of South Carolina-Beaufort (USCB) Sand Sharks in the Championship Game of the 2013 NAIA National Championship Tournament's Opening Round at Richard Gray Baseball/Softball Complex on Wednesday afternoon 7-3 in nine innings.
SHC starter Caroline Sagrera (35-9) gave up an unearned run in the 1st inning following a three-base error by the Badger infield and a one-out infield single by Sand Shark designated player Taylor Triplett. Mariaha Sanborn then belted a first pitch home run for USCB in the bottom of the 2nd inning to build an early 2-0 lead for the home team.
Freshman Badger shortstop Sam Leach legged out a double with one out in the 3rd inning that was followed by a walk to senior third baseman Mariha Partman. Sophomore All-Conference catcher Jade Bourgeois then blasted a three-run homer out of left field to stake SHC to a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, sophomore centerfielder Taylor Webre cut down a runner attempting to reach 3rd from 1st base on a single by USCB's Shelby Zipperer to end the frame and preserve the SHC advantage. Sagrera, who appeared to have caught her second wind following the Bourgeois home run, struck out the side in the bottom of the 4th inning.
Triplett drove in a run with a groundout to the infield in the bottom of the 5th inning to knot the score at 3-3. The Badgers would put runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs in the 6th inning, but a pop up would close out the threat.
Two infield fielding errors put the Badgers at 2nd and 3rd with one out in the top of the 7th inning when Partman drew an intentional walk to load the bases for Bourgeois who grounded out to 3rd base.
Bourgeois would nevertheless make amends for her gaffe in the top of the 9th inning with a single off the shortstop's glove that brought in sophomore right fielder Shea Blanchard from 2nd base to put the Badgers up 4-3. Senior left fielder Katelyn Hinson then ripped a two-run single to left and sophomore first baseman Elise deBruler lifted a sacrifice fly to make it a 7-3 game.
USCB starter Kristy Cook (22-2) went the distance in just her second loss of the year and allowed nine hits with three walks and a strikeout. Sagrera, who threw every Badger pitch of the tournament, recorded nine strikeouts with seven hits and two walks.
Bourgeois and Partman each had a pair of hits for SHC while Bourgeois tallied four RBI. Triplett and CJ Browder each had two hits for the Sand Sharks with Triplett collecting two RBI.
The Sand Sharks finished the year with a 43-6 record.
Badger fans can purchase action photos of the tournament via the USCB Athletics website.
Spring Hill (45-15) now advances to the 2013 NAIA Softball National Championship Final Site in Columbus, Ga., beginning on Friday, May 24.