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Backstrom pitches Longwood’s first perfect game

Longwood ace Sydney Backstrom didn’t have to be, but she was perfect anyway.

In the first perfect game by a Lancer pitcher in the program’s Division I era, Longwood’s All-Big South right-hander retired all 21 batters she faced to send the Lancers (20-21, 9-5 Big South) to a 7-0 series opening win over Presbyterian in game one of a doubleheader split Saturday at PC Softball Stadium.

Sydney Backstrom

A senior from Carrollton, North Carolina, Backstrom (15-9) struck out nine, did not allow a single hit, walk or baserunner, and needed just 79 pitches to get through the Blue Hose lineup three times unblemished. She did not allow a single ball to leave the infield and got all nine of her strikeouts swinging.

“We had a really good day on defense, and Alexis (Wayland) was doing a great job behind the plate for me,” said Backstrom, the nation’s leader in innings pitched and the Big South leader in wins. “I was definitely getting really nervous towards the end of the game. I think I knew I had a shot at the perfect game when Destiny (Martinez) made that diving play in the fourth inning.

“Overall, it was a rush, and I’m happy I got to celebrate it with my team.”

The perfect game was the first by a Big South pitcher since USC Upstate’s Christina Biggerstaff was flawless in a five-inning win against East Tennessee State March 6, 2019. Prior to that, the first since Radford’s Bre Felix threw a seven-inning perfect game against Maryland-Eastern Shore on March 26, 2004.

The no-hitter was also the second of Backstrom’s career following her hitless gem against Hampton on April 23, 2019, in which she allowed just one batter to reach safety on a walk. It was also her Big South-leading fourth shutout of the season.

Aiding Backstrom’s historic effort was a flawless defensive performance from the Lancer infield, including a diving, hit-stealing play by second baseman Martinez in the bottom of the fourth. That was one of seven groundouts converted by the Lancers, who recorded the final three outs by retiring leadoff batter Kaitlyn Tucker on a bunt groundout to third baseman Leah Powell, two-hitter Jaiden Tweed on another groundout to Powell and three-hitter Katelyn Petty on a popup to Backstrom who gloved it in the circle for the final out.

After falling victim to Backstrom’s historic start, however, the Blue Hose (12-13, 4-10 Big South) rallied for a 3-0 win in game two behind five-hit shutout from starter Haley Haselden (7-5).

“Game one was, well, perfect,” said first-year Longwood head coach and longtime Division I pitching coach Dr. Megan Brown. “We played as a team in all three areas and competed together. Game two was one of lessons and adjustments.”