DENVER, CO (WAFF) - From UNA Athletics
After forcing a deciding game with a 10-1 win over Humboldt State earlier in the day, the University of North Alabama softball team completed the sweep over the Lumberjacks with a 4-1 victory in the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championship Game at the Regency Athletic Complex in Denver, Colo. UNA finishes the season with a 60-7 record and gives the program its first national title in softball and seventh overall for the school.
Hillary Carpenter got complete-game victories in both games and was named the tournament's most outstanding player. She finished the World Series with a 5-0 record, tying an NCAA record for most wins in the finals. The junior from Hatton allowed one run in each contests, scattering eight hits with nine strikeouts. She finishes the season with a 33-3 record in the circle.
"I don't think it has hit me yet," said UNA head coach Ashley Cozart. "This team is just amazing. All year long they have won games in different ways. They've held leads, they have come back. We knew today, coming into this that we have done this before. We were not nervous or tight. They just came out and played like it was their last game."
In the title game, UNA did all of its scoring in the first two innings. After being held scoreless with only three hits against Humboldt State pitcher Madison Williams on Friday, the Lions were able to string together hits early against the Lumberjacks' ace on Saturday.
In the bottom of the first, Courtney Shields reached on an error and got to third base before Anna Gayle Norris drove her home with a single through the right side.
"I think we just changed what pitches we were looking for," said Shields. "We knew we needed to make adjustments from last night and that's what we did."
Madeline Lee started the three-run second inning with a single through the left side. She reached third base before a squeeze bunt by Carmen Whitfield drove her home and gave UNA a 2-0 lead. The Lions had runners at first and third when Shields tripled down the right line to make the score 4-0.
That would be all the offense the Lions would need. In the fourth inning, Humboldt State got an RBI-double from Julie Pena that scored Carly Perkins from first base. Carpenter, however, did not allow another hit the rest of the way.
"I have always thought that the more I pitched in a game, the better I got," said Carpenter. "I was a little nervous today but I guess it was my adrenalin that kept me going."
Five different players had one hit each for the Lions in the second game. The triple by Shields capped a 5-for-7 day at the plate with four RBI. She was also named to the all-tournament team, along with Brooklynn Clark and Reagan Tittle.
In the opener, Shields was 4-for-4 with two RBI and Carpenter limited the Humboldt State bats to five hits in the 10-1 victory.
Leading 5-0, UNA used a five-run sixth inning to put the game out of reach. The Lions hit three home runs in the frame and finished with 14 hits in the contest.
After the Lumberjacks struck first with a single run in the top of the first inning, UNA responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Consecutive singles by Bailey Nelson and Shields led off the inning before Clark reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases.
Harlie Barkley was hit by a pitch to bring home the first run and tie the game. A sacrifice fly by Norris then scored Shields from third to give UNA the lead for good. Lee wrapped up the first-inning scoring with an RBI-single down the left line.
A single run in the second inning gave the Lions a 4-1 lead. Nelson reached on an error and advanced to second before coming home on a single up the middle by Shields. The Lions added another run in the fifth inning before the five-run sixth iced the game. Barkley singled and eventually scored from third on a squeeze bunt by Lee.
In the sixth inning, the Lions sent nine batters to the plate. With one out, back-to-back home runs by Shields and Clark gave UNA a 7-1 lead. After a single by Barkley, Norris hit a two-run shot to left center to make the score 9-1. With the mercy-rule not being used for the championship series, play continued and the Lions added another run. Tittle singled and later scored on an error to account for the final score.
Barkley was 2-for-3 with an RBI while Tittle and Lee added two hits each for North Alabama. Carpenter allowed a single run in the top of the first innings before settling in with six strikeouts.
The national title is the seventh for UNA, which has also won championships in men's basketball (1979, 1991), football (1993, 1994, 1995) and volleyball (2003).
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