May 9, 2013 11:55 AM by UL Sports Information
TROY, Ala. - Brianna Cherry sent the first pitch she saw in the eighth inning into left field, scoring Natalie Fernandez from second base to topple the FIU Panthers 8-7 in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Championships. The Cajuns improved to 41-11 on the season and have now won their last 23 games.
"I was really happy," Cherry said about hitting the game winning single. "Throughout this entire game I was trying to work my mental game and not get down. All I could hear was coach in my head. I tried to do what I needed to do and put us in a good position to get the win."
The Panthers took the early lead in the game with a solo home run in the first inning. The home run was the first time the Cajuns had trailed in a game in 35 innings and five games. The last time a team led the Cajuns was the first inning of the series opener against Troy on April 27.
The Cajuns took back that lead right away in their half of the first, scoring three runs on four walks and a single to end the first up 3-1. They added one more run in the second inning with a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
The Panthers took one run back in their half of the fourth before Sarah Draheim hit her 14th home run of the season, a three run shot, to take a 7-2 lead.
FIU rallied back in the top of the fifth, tying the game with a five run outburst. They got their five runs on two walks and five hits, all of them singles.
The Panthers threatened with three hits in the sixth inning, but could not score a run, thanks to a great defensive play by right fielder Leandra Maly. Maly cut down a FIU runner attempting to stretch a single into a double for the second out of the inning, before back-to-back singles.
Jordan Wallace got the Panthers out 1-2-3 in the eighth with two ground outs and a strikeout in the eighth, bringing up Maly, Natalie Fernandez and Nerissa Myers to start the bottom of the eighth inning.
Maly would ground out leading to a single by Fernandez who later advanced to third on a wild pitch. Myers had what looked like the game winning hit up the middle, but an amazing diving grab by FIU shortstop Kayla Burri foiled a Louisiana victory for the time being.
Cherry made sure that the game wouldn't go any longer in her next at-bat, singling to left field, and scoring Fernandez on a close play at the plate, for a Cajuns win, 8-7.
Wallace picked up her 27th win of the season in the complete game effort for the Cajuns. She tossed 8.0 innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits and five walks, while fanning nine batters. She allowed seven runs for the second time of the season.
Draheim finished the game 3-for-3 at the plate with three runs and three RBI. In four games against FIU this season, Draheim has scored 11 runs. She has 48 all season. Shellie Landry also had a multi-RBI game going 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly.
The Cajuns will take on the winner of the final game of Wednesday, between South Alabama and tournament host, Troy, tomorrow evening at a tentative start time of 5:30. In other Sun Belt match ups today, top-seeded Western Kentucky defeated eighth seeded ULM 9-1 and fourth seed North Texas defeated fifth seed FAU 7-6 in eight innings.