Nashville, Tenn. – Gracey Aguirre's two-run home run in the top of the seventh gave Lipscomb a 4-2 victory over USC Upstate in the winner's bracket final of the A-Sun Tournament Friday afternoon at Draper Diamond.
Upstate fell to 38-10 with the loss and will play the winner of the game between North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast Friday evening at 5:30 to see who advances to Championship Saturday. Lipscomb improved to 33-23 with the win and advanced to Championship Saturday, awaiting the winner of the Upstate-UNF/FGCU game.
"They got hits when they needed to," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "I thought we played great defense. We didn't give them the game, they did what they had to do to win the game. Hopefully, we will do what we need to do tonight to get into the championship tomorrow."
With the rain holding off but the pregame warm-up schedule altered, Upstate set the tone with a pair of defensive gems in the top of the first inning. After leadoff hitter Brittany Elmore singled for Lipscomb, Spartan first baseman Cheyenne Griffin (Moore, S.C.) made a diving catch in foul territory to catch a sacrifice bunt attempt. Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.), who became Upstate's career leader in putouts Thursday, threw out Elmore attempting to steal second to end the inning. It was the 49th runner she has thrown out in her career.
Lipscomb attempted to get something going against Upstate starter Jamie Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.) in the top of the second inning. The Lady Bisons put runners on first and second with two outs. However, Ujvari struck out Bree Thurman to end the inning unscathed.
After going hitless in the first inning and two outs in the second, Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) cracked the first hit of the game for Upstate. She hit a double to right center, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple for the final out of the inning.
After putting runners on base in each of the first two innings, Lipscomb was the first team to crack the scoreboard, plating a run in the top of the third. With Elmore on first, Paige Neely doubled to right field and Elmore came all the way around to give the Lady Bisons a 1-0 lead. Neely was thrown out at third by Griffin attempting to take third on the throw.
Upstate attempted to get back in the game in the bottom of the third. The Spartans put runners on first and second when Marche Llanos (Kapolei, Hawaii) was successful in getting down the sacrifice bunt and moving the runners over to second and third. However, Lipscomb starter Tanner Sanders was able to get out of the inning with a fly out to left and a pop up to second to end the inning and Spartan threat.
Lipscomb put together some more offense in the fourth. Aguirre singled to lead off the inning and moved to second when Mickey Bell reached on a sacrifice bunt attempt, but the throw went to second instead of first trying to get Aguirre forced at second. With runners on first and second and no outs, Kristen Sturdivant walked to load the bases.
Ujvari got a fly out to shallow center for the first out of the inning. However, she tipped the throw coming in from Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.) and the ball went to the backstop, allowing Aguirre to score from third for a 2-0 Lipscomb lead. The runners moved to second and third on the play as well. Ujvari, though, hung tough and got a pair of called third strike strikeouts to get out of the jam with minimal damage and a 2-0 deficit.
Just when it looked like Sanders had Upstate's number like she did twice during the regular season series, Upstate got back into the game courtesy of Griffin's power outbreak. With a runner on base, she belted a two-run home run to left center to tie the game at 2-2. It was her fifth homer of the season and the 48th of the year for Upstate, tying the all-time season school record hit by the 1999 team. The home run also came when Griffin was celebrating her 20th birthday.
Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.) entered the game in the circle to start the fifth inning for Upstate. After a strong fifth inning, she ran into a slight jam in the sixth after Bell led off the inning with a double. After an out, Haley Elliott reached on an infield single when a diving Griffin could come up with a miraculous catch. However, Dana Landers (Simpsonville, S.C.) made a tremendous defensive play, sprinting to her right to make a diving catch of a blooper up the middle. Alexander then got a pop up to end the inning and keep the score at 2-2.
After a leadoff single by Robinson in the bottom of the sixth, Lipscomb brought in Heather Parker to pitch. Robinson moved to second on Landers' sacrifice bunt, putting a runner in scoring position with one out. Robinson moved to third on Griffin's ground out as Neely, Lipscomb's third baseman, potentially saved a run with a diving stop and throw out on the play. Parker got a fly out for the third out to get the Lady Bisons out of the jam.
Elmore led off the top of the seventh with a single up the middle and moved to second on Bridgette Begle's sacrifice bunt. Alexander got Neely to fly out to center for the second out, but Aguirre put Lipscomb ahead by two, 4-2, with a two-run home run to left center.
Lindsay Kelly (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. However, Parker retired the next two batters. Meredith Barnes (Salem, Ore.) reached with a single up the middle to put runners on first and second with two outs. Parker got a strikeout to end the game and give the Lady Bisons the win.
Parker improved to 16-11 on the year with the win, while Alexander fell to 15-5.