MARSHALL, Texas -- The final game of the Marshall Super Regional couldn't have been scripted any better for the East Texas Baptist Tigers.
After dropping the second game of the series to Claremont-M-S and trailing by two runs in the last of the seventh of Game 3 on Saturday, Lacey Lindsey slammed a three-run home run over the left-centerfield fence to give the Tigers the 5-4 win and the super regional championship.
Lindsey's three-run blast capped a four-run inning for the Tigers, who had been held scoreless since the first inning. A freshman from Leander, Texas, she also tied a program record with her 15th home run of the season.
The Tigers (44-8) will return to the NCAA Division III championships for the first since winning the national championship in 2010. The Tigers will have a short trip to this year’s event, which will be held at Suddenlink Field on the campus of Texas-Tyler.
The Athenas (32-15) were only three outs away from punching a second consecutive trip to East Texas, but the Tigers wasted no time rallying in the bottom of the seventh. Schultz hit leadoff hitter Jayme Perez with the first pitch of the inning, and then gave up back-to-back singles to Alyssa Romero and Jessica Bowden. Bowden’s single allowed Maranda Westbrook, pinch-running for Perez, to score and cut the CMS lead to 4-2.
With one of Taylor Field’s largest crowds of the year on its feet, Lindsey, ETBU’s top power hitter came to the plate, and gave the Tigers one of their most thrilling wins in team history when she homered on a 2-1 count. It was the second walkoff homerun of the series for ETBU, as Perez ended Friday’s opener with a two-run blast in the eighth inning.
Senior pitcher Shelby Parker pitched all seven innings in game three to pick up the victory. A senior from Brazoria, Texas, she struck out three batters while allowing only one earned run as she improved her season record to 23-5.
Parker was named the super regional's most outstanding pitcher after going 1-0 and posting a 2.05 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched. Lindsey was named the most outstanding player as she went 4-for-8 with a home run and four RBI in the three-game series.
Hayley Schultz (17-6) took her first loss of the series pitching in relief for the Athenas. She started Friday’s opener and the first game Saturday, going 1-1 in the series. Schultz pitched 2.1 innings and had little trouble silencing the ETBU hitters until the last inning.
Kaylilani Minami started Saturday’s second and final game and scattered four hits in 3.2 innings, yielding only a run on an RBI single from Lindsey in the bottom of the first inning. Minami earned the start after picking up a save in Saturday’s first contest.
The Athenas took control of the game in the fourth inning, loading the bases with no outs before Carlene Roberts knocked an RBI single to left field to score Tara Robinson and tie the game at 1-1. Two batters and two outs later, CMS struck again when Mikayla O’Neal’s RBI double off ETBU third baseman Jessica Bowden’s glove allowed Katie Savard to score.
Roberts added an RBI single in the top of the fifth inning and then helped the Athenas stretch their lead to 4-1 in the top of the seventh with an RBI double that scored Janelle Shiozaki.
Game 1 (Second game of the series): CMS 6, ETBU 4
After giving up a four-run lead and losing to ETBU in extra innings on Friday, the Athenas rebounded in Saturday’s opener by scoring six of the game’s first seven runs and holding off a late ETBU rally.
Schultz picked up the victory after giving up only three earned runs and scattering only five hits in 4.1 innings. Minami picked up the save after stanching an ETBU rally in the fifth and allowing only one run in 2.2 innings. It was Minami’s second save of the year.
Shiozaki’s two-RBI single in the bottom of the second capped a three-run inning for the Athenas. CMS stretched its lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning when Brooklyn Robinson, Savard, and Roberts all reached base with the bases loaded. Brooklyn Robinson drew a walk from ETBU starter Kelly Jo McLendon, while Savard knocked a single and Roberts was hit by a pitch from Parker, who entered the game in relief.
McLendon, who won Friday’s game in relief, took the loss Saturday after giving up six earned runs in 3.1 innings. It was only her second loss of the year as her record went to 19-2. After a rough start in relief, Parker settled down and struck out seven batters and scattered two hits in 2.2 innings.
Romero and Lindsey knocked RBI in the top of the fifth inning to cut CMS’s lead to 6-3. The Tigers added another run in the top of the seventh when Lacey Liles knocked a single up the middle to score Romero. The Tigers were threatening with runners on first and second with one out when Kaitlyn Hollingshead hit a hard shot to Roberts at third base. Roberts touched third base and threw to first to get the game-ending double play.