Southaven, Miss. – The University of Alabama in Huntsville softball team put forth a tremendously valiant effort on championship Sunday at the Gulf South Conference Softball Championships, staving off elimination twice and defeating Valdosta State 4-1 and Delta State 11-2 to reach the championship contest where the team heartbreakingly fell to VSU by a 4-3 margin as the Lady Blazers plated two runs in the top of the seventh inning to earn the victory.
The Chargers (39-15) will now await their assignment for the NCAA tournament as the Chargers were ranked No. 2 in the last installment of the regional rankings that determine the seeding for the upcoming event.
The field will be announced at 9:30 a.m. on ncaa.com.
For their efforts in the tournament, UAH players Cortney McNett, Whitney Gilbert and Mary Kelley all earned a spot on the all-tournament team with McNett taking home Most Outstanding Player honors after she hit .571 for the weekend while driving in 13 runs.
UAH 4, Valdosta State 1
The first elimination contest of the day – and second of the tournament – for the Chargers was a scoreless affair until UAH would grab the lead in the bottom of the third inning when Mallory McNeal led off the frame with a single into right, moved to third on consecutive sacrifice bunts, and then scored when Brianna Sullivan singled up the middle.
Valdosta State would tie the contest in the fourth inning, and the Lady Blazers threatened to add more as they had runners at first and second with just one out, but Gilbert would induce a lineout to third which resulted in a double play as Abby MacKay threw over to second to double the runner off there.
Gilbert was once again terrific as she threw a complete game, scattering six hits across the seven innings while allowing just the one run to notch her 13th win of the season.
Thanks to her strong pitching, the score remained tie until the sixth when UAH would score three times.
The Chargers would regain the advantage in the sixth when Kelley recorded a one-out double, and two batters later she scurried home to put UAH on top 2-1 when Kathryn Whitlock doubled to left center. After a MacKay walk, Head Coach Les Stuedeman put Megan Walker into pinch hit, and the freshman delivered with a clutch base knock that scored a run, and McNeal would drive in a run of her own to make it 4-1.
Gilbert then worked around a double and a single in the seventh to seal the victory.
Both teams collected six hits in the game with McNeal leading the way for UAH with a pair.
UAH 11, Delta State 2
Needing to win to advance to the championship game, the Chargers did just that and in a big way.
McNeal kicked things off with a run-producing triple – her second of the season – as she plated Whitlock who had doubled to start the frame.
The Chargers then grabbed a firm grasp on the contest in the third when UAH scored six times, and the first three runs came home when McNett recorded her team-leading 10th home run of the season, and with the three RBI, she would finish the weekend with 64 on the year.
The other three runs came when McNeal forced Whitlock across the plate on a groundout, and Lindsey Davis made it 7-0 in favor of the Blue and White with a two-run single into right to complete the scoring in the frame.After DSU’s Brooke Cline connected on a two-run homer in the bottom of the third, the Chargers would score four more times in the fifth to put the run rule in effect, and Kimberly Jack – in the game in relief of starter Whitney Toler – retired the DSU side in order to move the Chargers onward.
Toler went 3.1 innings in increasing her record to 12-3 on the season.
Valdosta State 4, UAH 3
The Chargers struck first in the contest, scoring three times in the bottom of the first to quickly jump out in front. Whitlock singled in a run before McNeal drew a bases-loaded walk and Meagan Billingsley was hit by a pitch with the bags still packed.
Unfortunately, UAH could muster only a little more offense in the game as Brianna Hancock limited UAH to just three hits.
Valdosta State scored a run in the second and third innings to make it a 3-2 ballgame, and the score remained that way until the seventh when with one out, the Lady Blazers put together four straight singles to tie the game before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Sarah Vaughn would put VSU ahead for good as Hancock sat down the Chargers in order in the bottom of the seventh.
Jack picked up the tough-luck loss for the Chargers in the circle as she had entered the game earlier in relief of Gilbert.
Courtesy UAH Media Relations