FLORENCE – Hillary Carpenter pitched a three-hit shutout and the University of North Alabama softball team opened play at the 2016 Gulf South Conference Tournament with a 4-0 victory over fifth-seeded Delta State Thursday evening in Florence. The win puts the top-seeded Lions in the winner’s bracket final against Valdosta State Friday at 3 p.m.
UNA (47-5) plated single runs in the bottom of the first and sixth innings, while Brooklylnn Clark added a two-run home run in the third to account for the scoring. It was the 15th homer of the season for Clark, tying a single-season record. After Reagan Tittle reached base with a two-out single, Clark sent the fourth pitch over the left field fence to increase the Lions’ lead.
North Alabama already held a 1-0 advantage after plating a run in the first inning for the 32nd time this year. Bailey Nelson led off the game with a double and later scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Clark.
In the bottom of the sixth, Harlie Barkley led off the frame with a single and later scored on an RBI-double by Madeline Lee.
Delta State, which advanced to the second round by knocking off fourth-seed UAH 7-2 earlier in the day, had its chances throughout the game. The Lady Statesmen, however, stranded 11 baserunners. Aside from the three hits, DSU drew six walks and had two batters hit. Carpenter pitched out of trouble every time.
The junior from Hatton recorded her seventh shutout of the season. She struck out three and improved to 22-3 to equal her win total from a year ago. At the plate, Barkley and Nelson each finished 2-for-3.
Valdosta State advanced to the winner’s bracket final by defeating West Florida 5-3 in the second round. The No. 2 seed Blazers also received a first-round bye. The Lions will face VSU for the fourth time this year after winning two of three meetings earlier in the season. Another win would put UNA in the GSC championship game for the second straight year. A loss would send the Lions to the loser’s bracket for an elimination game at 10 a.m. on Saturday.