Ellis

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- No. 4-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State led from the very first pitch of the game in claiming its first NCAA Division II Southeast Region Championship with a 7-2 win against Anderson (S.C.) on Saturday afternoon at the Armstrong Softball Field.

Senior Shelby Duff hit the first pitch she saw from Anderson (40-15) pitcher Lauren Bell over the left field fence in the top of the first inning for a solo home run, setting the tone for the Pirates' victory and sending Armstrong (41-18-1) to its first berth in the NCAA Division II Softball Championship.

The Pirates added a single run in the second inning on an RBI single by Duff, then got a big blow in the third inning as, following an RBI single by Rachel Reynolds, freshman Haley Ellis drove a high pitch over the center field wall for a three-run home run and a 6-0 lead.

Anderson scored a single run in the fifth on an RBI fielder's choice by Abby Child, but Ellis answered in the top of the sixth inning with a solo home run, her second of the game, to make the score 7-2.

The Trojans got the first two runners on in the sixth and pushed across a run on a sacrifice fly, but reliever Megan Barnwell induced a bases-loaded fly out by Danielle Swygert in foul territory down the left field line to end the threat.

Barnwell then struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to close out the win and send Armstrong to Salem, Va. 

Reynolds (5-1) picked up the win for the Pirates by hurling five innings of three-hit ball, giving up two runs and walking six while striking out one. Barnwell finished the game with two innings of two-hit shutout ball, striking out four.

Bell (22-7) took the loss for the Trojans, giving up seven hits and six runs in 2 2/3 innings of work, walking one while striking out three.

Haley Ellis went 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs to pace the Pirates at the plate, while Duff went 3-for-4 with her solo home run and two RBIs.

Charlotte Seiber paced the Trojans, making their first NCAA championship appearance in 2013, with a 2-for-2 day with an RBI.

Armstrong head coach Ted Evans collected his 300th career head coaching victory with the win on Saturday, leading the Pirates to the World Series on his second try - the Pirates advanced to the 2007 Southeast Region final but lost to Columbus State. Evans has compiled a 300-165-1 record in his nine seasons at the helm of Armstrong softball.

In the 16-year history of Armstrong fastpitch softball, the Pirates had made three previous region final berths - in 2000, 2003 and 2007 - before making the breakthrough to the World Series in 2013.