March 25, 2012
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (seminoles.com) – Freshman Erika Leonard’s three extra base hits combined with junior Kirstin Austin’s critical go-ahead single late in the game propelled the No. 23 Florida State University softball team to a 3-1 win over Virginia on Sunday afternoon at The Park.
The victory by the Seminoles (29-5, 6-0) capped a series sweep on the road and gave FSU its first 6-0 start in ACC play since the 2003 squad finished 8-0 in the conference.
Leonard’s three extra base hits included a mammoth home run in the third inning, her third of the season. Leonard’s three base hits tied her season high, which she also attained versus Wisconsin on Feb. 24. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native also had two impressive doubles in the fifth and seventh innings.
“Erika was definitely locked in today. She had some great swings and really drove the ball to all parts of the field today,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “Her individual performance was a big lift for our offense and played a huge part in getting a road sweep, which is never easy to do in the ACC.”
Austin may have provided the game’s biggest hit when she recorded the go-ahead RBI single with two outs in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie. The Temple Terrace, Fla., native finished 2-for-3 with one RBI, and also made a key defensive play in the second inning when she prevented a run from scoring by charging a lined single to left field and making a strong throw to home plate to leave the runner on third base.
FSU finished 8-for-25 versus Virginia pitcher Rachel Gillen (5-4), who absorbed the loss after allowing three runs on eight hits in seven innings pitched. Freshman Lacey Waldrop (14-2) came out with the win in relief, tossing the final four innings and allowing just two hits with three strikeouts.
Virginia made a real threat to score first in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Alex Skinkis was walked on four pitches, then stole second base. Stephanie Harris followed with a strikeout swinging, but Megan Harris tagged a hard-hit single to left field that could have scored Skinkis from second base had left fielder Kirstin Austin not charged it so well in the outfield. Austin’s throw home prevented Skinkis from scoring, and Perry induced a lineout by Gillen to end the inning.
The third inning was certainly eventful. Leonard led off the top of the frame with a towering solo home run to right field to give FSU a 1-0 advantage. Kelly Hensley and Austin then reeled off consecutive singles, and Tiffani Brown followed with a sharp lineout to third base. Shayla Jackson then grounded into a fielder’s choice, as second baseman Erica Cipolloni tagged Austin at second base.
On the same play, pinch runner Erika Hoffner rounded third base and attempted to go home on a forced rundown but was thrown out. Hoffner appeared to slide in safely through the legs of catcher Kristen Hawkins, but was nonetheless called out.
With no outs in the bottom of the fourth, Erica Cippoloni led off with a triple to right field. Waldrop then entered the game for starter Monica Perry, allowing a sacrifice fly to left field by Marcy Bowdren that tied the game at 1-1.
Like in Saturday’s doubleheader, Austin came up big again when she drove in pinch runner Morgan Bullock with two outs on an RBI single through the left side in the fifth. Bullock’s run scored was made possible by Leonard’s double that trickled off the centerfield wall with one out in the inning.
In the sixth, Virginia nearly tied the game when Giannina Cipolloni led off with a bunt single, then advanced to second base on a steal. Waldrop followed by getting a key strikeout on Taylor Williams, and Kennedy Byxbee advanced Cipolloni to third base on a groundout to the right side. Bowdren then stepped to the plate and hit a slow roller to Briana Hamilton at third base, who charged in and made a great play to field and throw to Hensley at first base for the big out.
Hensley put together a quality at-bat in the seventh inning that created an insurance run. With one out and Senas on third base as well as Leonard on second, Hensley fought off several pitches to bring home Senas on a long sacrifice fly to right field, making it 3-1. Senas led off the inning with a single to left field, and Leonard followed two batters later with a double to right field.
FSU returns home for a doubleheader against Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday, March 29, at JoAnne Graf Field beginning at 5 p.m. The Seminoles then host nationally-ranked North Carolina beginning with a doubleheader next Sunday on ESPN3.com. The series finale on Monday, April 2, will be televised on ESPNU at 7 p.m.