FORT MYERS, FLA. - Sixth-seeded Jacksonville opened the 2016 ASUN Softball Championship with a 2-1 extra-inning victory over Stetson. Heather Roberts hit a home run in the top 11th inning to lift the Dolphins to the win. They will face No. 2 USC Upstate on Thursday morning at 10 a.m., while No. 3 Stetson will play an elimination vs. the loser of No. 4 Kennesaw State and No. 5 Lipscomb.
Roberts slugged her ninth home run of the season in the top of the 11th inning to deep left field off the scoreboard to give Jacksonville the 2-1 lead after the game was deadlocked at one for the majority of the contest. Paige Curtis pitched 6.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen to pick up the win in the circle for the Dolphins. Tori Perkins pitched all 11 innings for the Hatters and took the hard-luck loss.
It was a pitcher's duel throughout as both starters, Victoria Brown for Jacksonville and Perkins for Stetson, held the offenses in check for the majority of the game. The Dolphins had the first scoring opportunity as Danielle Baker led off the top of the first with a double, but Perkins recorded two strikeouts to shut the door and keep Jacksonville off the board.
Jacksonville had another runner reach second base in the second, but once again were unable to come up with the big two-out hit to drive her home. The Dolphins kept knocking on the door and finally broke through in the top of the third inning. After Ciara Jones led off the inning with a single up the middle, she stole second base and advanced to third on a Brown ground out. Emily Sanchez stepped up and produced the first run of the game with an RBI single to left to score Jones and put JU up 1-0.
The Hatters responded right away in the bottom half of the third inning. Kelsey Waters led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, then to third on an illegal pitch by Brown. With two outs, First Team All-Conference selection Jessie Tenbroeck laid down the perfect bunt to score Waters from third and tie the game at 1-1.
The pitching then took over as neither team had a good scoring opportunity until the bottom of the fifth. The Hatters got a lead off walk from Jessica Griffin and played some small ball to advance her to third with two outs. Paige Curtis entered out of the bullpen for the Dolphins and got a crucial out as Jazz Vazquez flied to center field to end the inning and the score still tied 1-1.
Stetson had an opportunity in the bottom of the seventh as Molly Shasteen got a single to lead off the inning and moved to second on a SAC bunt from ASUN Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Hawn. Jessica Griffin and Talli Sharp stepped up to the plate, but were unable to drive home Shasteen forcing extra innings.
In the eighth inning, both teams threatened but were unable to push across the winning run. Shasteen made a running catch in the right field gap to keep Jacksonville off the score board, while Paige Curtis left a runner on third after getting Ashly Smith to ground out. Both teams went scoreless until the 11th inning, where Roberts knocked the go-ahead home run to left field.
Stetson vs. Jacksonville Softball Championship Game Notes
- Today's game was the first extra inning game in the ASUN Championship since 2014. For Stetson it was the first since 2008, Jacksonville had never played an extra inning game at the ASUN Championship previously.
- The Dolphins picked up their first win in an ASUN Championship game since 2012, when they won the opening game against Lipscomb by the same 2-1 scoreline.
- Roberts had gone seven games without hitting a home run before today's game-winner. She ranks third on the team behind Danielle Baker (13) and Victoria Brown (12).
- Jacksonville combined for 10 hits in today's win, the ninth time this season they have produced double-digit hits in a single game. They own an 8-1 record in those nine games this season.