May 23, 2010

By Dan Myers
Special to

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- In this case, Porsha Harrison's name really is indicative of how she plays the game.

Like Friday, when Harrison used her speed to make a critical diving catch to stymie a rally, it was her feet yet again that were the difference for East Texas Baptist, as the Lady Tigers defeated Christopher Newport, 4-2, Saturday to advance to the NCAA Division III softball finals Sunday against Linfield. The winner of that game will play for the national championship Monday afternoon.

"I think tonight's game was a perfect example of what our team has done throughout regionals. We had to work the entire game," said Tigers head coach Janae Shirley. "We knew coming into this weekend that we would have to do that, and we did a great job of it."

Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the third, Harrison flew around third base, scoring from second on a single by Alicia Wright. The run ended up being the game winner, and reestablished the two-run ETBU lead just a half inning after the Captains pulled within a single run.

Harrison also provided some extra insurance late in the game.

After a solo home run by CNU's Ashley Mani made it 3-2 in the fifth inning, Harrison beat out a high chopper to third in the bottom of the sixth inning.

With two outs, average effort by Harrison would have meant the end of the inning. But her extra hustle allowed an important insurance run to come across the plate and provide the game's final margin.

"I just try to run out every play as hard as I can," Harrison said. "You never know what can make a difference in the game. If you slack off any plays, that could be an out."

Indeed, her speed brings an element to the game that few here have in Eau Claire. It's been an important cog in East Texas Baptist's run through the tournament so far. The Tigers are the lowest seeded team remaining in the tournament (No. 7 of 8) yet they have a chance, with a victory over the Wildcats Sunday, to play for a national title.

"Her speed adds something that most teams don't have," Shirley said. "Defensively, she's been able to cover some ground and make some big plays for us. Offensively, she's done a great job. She's one of those kids that can score from first base on a base hit.

"Our seniors, they're not ready to be done yet," added Shirley. "They've done great things for our program and they're really excited about leaving their mark."

Baptist jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a double by Wright. It was a different start than Friday for the Tigers, who used six late runs to overcome an early deficit. Saturday, ETBU was in control from the start.

"Yesterday's game when I first stepped in, it kind of hit me, 'Hey, I'm at the World Series,'" Harrison said. "Tonight it was just all out and we just came to play the game."

Ayrika Henderson got the start on the mound for ETBU and pitched the first 5 2/3 innings, striking out eight and allowing two runs. When she left the game for Wright in the top of the sixth, there were two runners on for the Captains. Wright came in and shut the door, forcing a ground out to end the threat in the sixth and then striking out two in the seventh to nail down the save.

"Every game, I know Alicia has my back," Henderson said. "She's definitely a pitcher that come in and finish a game anytime for me. She's there whenever I need her."

Harrison finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate. Wright was 2-for-3. Five different Captains had a hit apiece.

CNU moves to the elimination bracket and will face Luther at 2:30 p.m. A win there would guarantee them another game Sunday against either Eastern Connecticut State or DePauw at 7:30 p.m.

First pitch for the Tigers and Wildcats Sunday is set for 5 p.m. at Carson Park.