With a stiff breeze blowing out to left center most of the day at the NCAA South 1 Region Tournament, the top-ranked Alabama-Huntsville (42-4-1) softball team blasted six home runs to cruise to Sunday's regional championship game behind a 16-0 run-rule win over Fort Valley State and a 10-1 run-rule win over No. 3 Valdosta State on Saturday afternoon at the Charger Softball Complex.
UAH's first game was never in doubt for the nation's number one ranked team as the Chargers erupted for eight runs out of the gate including a two-run blast by senior catcher Krystal Johnson (Birmingham), the first of the season for Johnson. UAH then added on three runs in the second including a pair of scores on an RBI single by sophomore shortstop Kellie Johnson (Gardendale). The Blue and White tacked on another run in the third before a four-run effort in the fourth to round out the scoring in the contest. Sophomore third baseman Abby MacKay (Madison) and senior first baseman Sarah Nickey (Madison) provided the spark in the fourth with both launching rockets over the fence.
Sophomore righty Whitney Gilbert (Rogersville, Tenn.) cruised past the Wildcats fanning nine batters and allowing only one hit to improve to 14-2 on the year.
Game three of the tournament saw a rematch of last week's Gulf South Conference tournament matchup between the Chargers and Blazers that saw VSU send UAH back to Huntsville in the semifinals. The game ran through the first two and a half innings before the Chargers got the bats going in the bottom of the third. UAH junior center fielder Kelli Long (Sterling, Ill.) opened the scoring in the contest with her fifth homer of the season, a deep fly to left center that plated three runs. The Chargers then chased VSU starter Margaret Carter and pushed across two more runs to take a 5-0 lead.
UAH's fifth home run of the afternoon made it a seven-run advantage in the bottom of the fourth as junior first baseman Stephanie Needham (Trussville, Ala.) launched her sixth blast of the season. Krystal Johnson then provided the highlight clip of the day when the senior went deep for the second time of the day with a three-run bomb off the scoreboard in left field to end the contest early.
Freshman hurler Whitney Toler (Fayetteville, Ga.) improved to 16-2 on the season with the win. Toler scattered five hits and allowed one unearned run in the victory.
The Chargers advance to Sunday's South Region 1 championship game at 1:30 p.m. at the Charger Softball Complex. UAH will take on the winner of Sunday morning's contest between Barry and Valdosta State that is slated for an 11 a.m. first pitch.