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16 May 2008

Gamecocks Win a Wild (Pitch) One

By Creg Stephenson
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

TUSCALOOSA Jacksonville State's Amy Brown didn't have to wait long for her shot at redemption.

Brown failed to score from third on a fly ball to right field in the fifth inning Thursday, momentarily keeping the Gamecocks tied with Florida State in their NCAA Softball Regional opener at the Alabama Softball Complex. Moments later, the Alexandria native raced home on a passed ball to provide JSU with the winning margin in a 4-3 victory over the Seminoles.

"When the ball came off the bat, I thought it was going to be a base hit," said Brown, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Courtney Underwood. "Obviously, when the girl caught it, I should have tagged up. I was just praying for a passed ball."

Brown got her passed ball, and freshman pitcher Ashley Eliasson made the run stand up. The Californian allowed three runs in the first inning, but none thereafter in a complete-game five-hitter that moved her record to 15-3 on the season.

Jacksonville State (39-14) returns to action today against top-seeded and host Alabama, which knocked off fourth-seeded Chattanooga in Thursday's late game. JSU coach Jana McGinnis said her team wasn't intimidated against Florida State, and won't be today.

"Coming from a small school such as Jacksonville State, I don't think many people give us a chance to win," McGinnis said. "But the most important thing was that our players believed we could win, and that we could play with Florida State if we played our game, we'd give ourselves a chance to win. I'm proud of that fact."

Florida State (37-27) reached Eliasson for three runs on two hits in the first inning, taking advantage of a throwing error and two hit batters. Eliasson bore down with the bases loaded and one out, retiring consecutive hitters to end the inning.

The Seminoles got only one runner past first base after that, and managed just three hits in the final six innings. Eliasson struck out four and started a nifty double play to end the sixth inning.

"I wish I could tell you what happened," Florida State coach Joanna Graf said. "We answered back when they scored early, but then it was like we got a little anxious and stopped hitting. We were trying to force things to happen, rather than waiting for our pitch to hit."

Jacksonville State scored a run on a passed ball in the first, then pulled within 3-2 on Kayla Collins' RBI double in the fourth. Graf pulled FSU starter Tiffany McDonald after that, and the Gamecocks reached reliever Terese Gober (10-13) for the tying and winning runs in the fifth.

Whitney Elder drove home the tying run with a one-out RBI single, but Alana Hicks' flyout to right froze Brown at third. With Collins at the plate, the ball got away from FSU catcher Jessica Gilmore and Brown came home to give JSU the lead.

JSU ended the day with eight hits, two by catcher Allie Barker, Brown's former Alexandria teammate. Shortstop Mary Beth Ledbetter went 1-for-2 with a double, in addition to turning in at least three excellent defensive plays behind Eliasson.

"I had a bit of first-inning jitters," Eliasson said. "But once I got past the first inning, I was able to hold them. My defense really pulled me through."

Florida State faces Chattanooga in an elimination game at 5 p.m. today.

Today: Jacksonville State vs. Alabama
2:30 p.m., 91.9 FM

Remaining schedule

Tuscaloosa Regional

Game 3 Jacksonville State (39-14) at Alabama (52-6), 2:30 p.m.

Game 4 Florida State (37-27) vs. Chattanooga (41-21), 5 p.m.

Game 5 Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's games

Game 6 Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7:30 p.m.

Game 7 Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, if necessary, 9:30 p.m.

About Creg Stephenson

Creg Stephenson covers the University of Alabama for The Anniston Star.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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