May 19, 2013Whitney Fletcher's triple in the bottom of the 13th inning scored Heather Pearson for the game-winning run as UAB defeated UCLA, 3-2, at Ulmer Stadium to win the NCAA Softball Louisville Regional and advance to next weekend's Super Regionals.
The Blazers, who lost to the Bruins (4-1) earlier in the day to set up the deciding game, outlasted the Pac-12 opponent in a marathon contest that lasted nearly four and a half hours.
With the win, the Blazers (40-17) posted their first 40-win season in program history. UCLA ended its season at 40-20.
UAB now advances to the NCAA Super Regionals in Gainesville, Fla. where it will face the No. 2 national seed Florida Gators. The Blazers and Gators will face off on Saturday, May 25 at Noon CT on ESPNU. Sunday's game is set for 11 a.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN.
"Going into the second game, I knew we didn't start off mentally strong," head coach Marla Townsend said. "It was just Whit (Whitney Fletcher). You could see she was not seeing the ball clearly at first. Right before her last at bat, she said, I got it, Coach. I am back. And in that sixth at bat, she was definitely back."
In the circle in deciding game, Leigh Streetman (13-7) turned in a stellar performance as she picked up the win in relief, throwing 7.2 innings for starter Lauren Webster, allowing no earned runs and striking out seven.
"I am just so proud of the way Lauren Webster pitched a great game and Leigh Streetman came in and did outstanding too," Townsend said. "You have a team like UCLA, who has won a World Series get 16 hits to our four hits - that just shows how relentless we were. The crowd and our fans were just great. It is a great day to be a Blazer."
For UCLA, Jessica Hall (11-8) took the loss after throwing 11.1 innings and allowing each of UAB's four hits. The Bruins stranded 18 runners on base throughout the game while the Blazers only left eight.
UCLA tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single to left with two outs in the top of the second.
Neither side would plate a run until the 11th inning of action, as UCLA scored its second on a sacrifice fly to center field after loading the bases.
The Blazers kept the game alive after freshman shortstop Caitlin Attfield reached on an infield single to short, and was advanced to second when Pearson was hit by pitch. Attfield took third on a wild pitch, and was scored to tie the game, 2-2, on Fletcher's sacrifice fly to center field.
Streetman set UCLA down in order in the top of the 12th with a popup to short and a pair of strikeouts, before UAB got the winning runner to third in the bottom, but she was caught out halfway to home on a failed squeeze play by sophomore Amy Dennis.
The Blazers got out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the 13th. UCLA reached with a leadoff single to the left side, and the runner was advanced on a bunt single by leadoff hitter B.B. Bates. The Bruins drew a one-out walk to load the bases, but Streetman struck out the two batters, one swinging and the other looking, to get UAB out of the jam without allowing a run.
UAB led off the bottom of the 13th with the top of the order, as Attfield took first on a four-pitch walk. Pearson hit into a fielder's choice and Attfield was tagged at second for the first out of the frame, before Fletcher tripled to right center to end the game in the Blazers' favor and advance the team to its first NCAA Super Regional in program history.