Behind the third game ended due to the eight-run rule in three games, the top-ranked Alabama-Huntsville (43-4-1) cruised to the NCAA South Region 1 Championship behind a 10-2 win over No. 3 Valdosta State (41-11) at the Charger Softball Complex on Sunday afternoon in Huntsville. With the win, the Chargers advance to host the NCAA South Super Regional next weekend in the "Rocket City".
UAH picked up right where they left off against the Blazers having handed Valdosta State a 10-1 loss on Saturday by using a two-out rally to push across four runs in the first. Junior first baseman Stephanie Needham (Trussville) got the rally going by drawing a walk and advancing to second on a wild pitch before freshman left fielder Mary Kelley (Mobile) ripped a single to left scoring Needham. Kelley took advantage of the throw to home on the play to move into scoring position herself and came home on the next play as sophomore shortstop Kathryn Whitlock (Arab) singled to left to make it a 2-0 UAH advantage. That brought up Saturday's hot hitter Krystal Johnson (Birmingham), who launched her first two home runs of the season on the day prior, and the senior catcher delivered again launching a fastball over the scoreboard in left field for the 4-0 lead.
Valdosta State answered right back in the top of the next frame however, as Natalia Morozova singled to leadoff the frame before Ashley Steinhilber cut the UAH lead in half with a blast to center field. That two-run margin was short lived though, as UAH junior center fielder Kelli Long (Sterling, Ill.) cranked her sixth homer of the season with sophomore third baseman Abby MacKay (Madison) aboard to push the Charger lead back to four runs.
The four-run margin held until the fifth inning when the Chargers pushed across another run on an RBI single by senior designated player Emily Roach (Huntsville). The Blazers threatened in the sixth loading the bases but senior reliever Alex Lewis (Huntsville) was able to get out of the jam and keep the lead 7-2 for the Chargers.
A leadoff single by Long and a walk by sophomore right fielder Meagan Billingsley (Columbiana) got the final rally going for the Chargers in the bottom of the sixth. Needham then laced a double to left that brought Long home and set the table with the winning runs in scoring position. A Kelley groundout to first brought Billingsley home to make it an 8-2 lead before VSU's Krystle Robinson loaded the bases by walking both Whitlock and Johnson. UAH then sealed the run-rule win when Robinson threw a wild pitch to the backstop and Needham raced across the plate.
UAH freshman hurler Whitney Toler (17-2) picked up the in the circle for the Chargers working the first four innings. The rookie allowed the two runs in the second inning and three hits before Lewis came on to work the final two innings in the contest. Holly Satterfield (25-5) took the loss for the Blazers allowing six earned runs in three and one-thirds innings.
The Chargers advance to host the NCAA South Super Regional next weekend at the Charger Softball Complex. UAH will face either Arkansas-Monticello or West Alabama as winners of the NCAA South 2 Regional in the best of three series.