Lancers’ season ends in marathon semifinal
Published 1:29 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2018
A successful 2018 season for Longwood University’s softball team came to an early close Friday by the Lancers’ remarkably high standards as they lost in the Big South Tournament semifinals, falling short of winning their fourth straight tournament title.
With the No. 2-seeded Lancers’ backs against the wall to start Friday after losing 4-1 to host No. 3 Radford University on Thursday, Longwood Head Coach Kathy Riley said that if her team went down in the 2018 Big South Tournament, she wanted them to go down with a fight.
The Lancers did just that Friday evening in a rematch against Radford, falling 3-2 in a 12-inning marathon that was the longest game in Big South Championship history at Radford Softball Stadium.
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Highlanders senior pitcher Abby Morrow (23-11) outdueled Longwood’s pair of junior Sydney Gay and freshman Sydney Backstrom, going the distance in the circle and throwing 124 pitches, 85 for strikes. She gave up two runs, one earned, on eight hits while just walking one Lancer.
Morrow escaped several jams including in the sixth inning when she escaped unscathed after Longwood loaded the bases with no outs after being backed by countless plays from her defense. Gay went pitch-for-pitch with Morrow, coming on for starter Backstrom in the fifth inning and contributing to the Lancers a strong 7.2 innings in which she gave up one run on five hits while adding four strikeouts.
Riley said that though the season ended earlier than desired, her team has “a tremendous amount of fond memories to look back on.” In the top of the 12th inning, Radford sophomore Sofia Tapia singled on a bunt and advanced to third on an error before being brought home on an RBI double into center field delivered by freshman Talia Douglas.
“It’s always tough at the end of a loss to think about all of the good things we’ve done in a season,” Riley said. “You’re trying to win the conference tournament and have a chance to go to NCAA Regionals, and we didn’t get the job done. It’ll be easy to look back and see that we’ve had our best Hawaii trip we’ve ever had, we won 38 games this year …”
It was announced Saturday that Gay and redshirt junior Karleigh Donovan were named to the Big South All-Tournament Team. Gay finished her season with 171 strikeouts to place fifth all-time on Longwood’s list of single-season strikeout totals, the third consecutive season that she has placed among the top 10.
Sophomore Destiny Martinez led the Lancers with a pair of hits in Friday’s game while adding an RBI and a run scored. Just the second program in Big South history to win three consecutive conference championships, Longwood (38-16) finished the season with its fifth consecutive 30-plus-win year, while posting at least 35 wins in a campaign in six of its seasons since moving to Division I.
Longwood’s senior class — Krista Kelly, Haleigh Kilby, Sydney Mundell, Kelsey Sweeney and Glenn Walters — has its legacy cemented in place within the program, having been a part of three Big South Championships and helping Longwood to become the first school in Big South history to go to back-to-back NCAA Regional Championship games.
The class has produced more than 140 victories.
“Our seniors really wanted a chance to make history, to go and become one of two teams to win four championships in row,” Riley said. “Right now it’s a bit of an open wound, but I know that it’ll be easy for me to think about everything they’ve accomplished in four years. It’s impressive, even to me.”