No. 18 Francis Marion Eliminates Fifth-Ranked Braves From PBC Softball Tournament
FLORENCE, S.C. - A controversial dropped fly ball with two outs in the top of the eighth inning scored the game-deciding run for 18th-ranked Francis Marion as the Patriots eliminated fifth-ranked UNCP from the Peach Belt Conference Softball Tournament with a 3-2 win over the Braves Saturday evening in Florence, S.C.
With two outs and a runner in scoring position, UNCP second baseman Anna Williamson camped under a routine fly ball that came out of her glove and looked to be collected by centerfielder Brittany Berrier on the ricochet. After a conference, and opinions from coaches on both sides, the field umpire ruled that Berrier had trapped the ball, thus allowing the eventual winning run to score.
The loss marked the second of the day for the Braves (44-12) at Freedom Florence Park after the Black & Gold dropped a 4-0 decision to North Georgia earlier in the day. The Patriots (32-12) advanced through in the loser's bracket and will play Columbus State in another elimination contest on Saturday evening.
Katie Linkous, Randi Pruitt and Carissa Dancer each recorded a hit to provide all of the offense for the Braves who continued their struggle at the plate and finished their stint at the PBC Tournament with a .130 (10-for-77) batting average. The Patriots got two hits, including a home run, and two RBI from pitcher Michaela Wolf, as well as a 3-for-4 day from Jessica Birchmeier.
UNCP starter Martika Elmore struck out three and yielded a pair of earned runs over four innings of work, but exited the game in favor of reliever Whitney Landwemeyer (8-5) in the fifth. Landwermeyer struck out two and allowed just three hits over four innings herself, but was tagged with the tough-luck loss after surrendering the controversial run in the extra frame. Wolf (22-9) struck out seven, walked three and allowed just three hits over a complete game to pick up the win for the hosts.
The Braves used a RBI triple from Linkous and a suicide squeeze bunt from Christy Freeland to take a 2-0 lead into the third, but FMU knotted things back up on a two-run homer from Wolf in the fourth. In the deciding frame, Monica Wofford and Birchmeier both reached on one-out singles, but Landwermeyer appeared to have escaped the frame by inducing consecutive pop flies, the second of which produced the controversial call.
UNCP will now play the waiting game to learn of its fate for the NCAA postseason. The Braves, who won their first PBC regular season title with a doubleheader sweep of North Georgia last week, are expected to be one of the 64 teams participating in the postseason gala.