Championship lost in Flames: 5-3 Lamar lead turns in 3-1 title loss due to rule

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lamar sports information

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Lamar Cardinals were one out from a 5-3 victory in the championship game of the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championship. Instead, they suffered a gut-wrenching and controversial 3-1 loss to the host Liberty Flames on Wednesday.

The Cardinals scored four runs in the top of the sixth to take a 5-3 lead. LU reliever Anissa Rodriguez retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning before issuing a pair of walks on borderline 3-2 pitches before play was halted because of rain.

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Tournament officials, who waited 4 hours, 30 minutes to start LU’s game against Kennesaw State on Tuesday and another hour after play was halted in the fifth inning before suspending play until Wednesday morning, waited just 19 minutes after play was stopped on Wednesday to announce the championship game would not be resumed. Since the bottom of the sixth inning was never completed, the score reverted to the final full inning, meaning LU’s four runs and all stats in the top of the sixth, including Sable Hankins’ two-run hit were null and void.

“I’m angry and disappointed,” said LU coach Holly Bruder, who was not in a mood to celebrate her 40th birthday. “We needed one out to complete the inning. We played in the rain up to that point. We should have had the opportunity to finish the inning.”

It was the third game of the day for the Cardinals, who completed the final two innings of the 5-4 win over Kennesaw State before dropping an 8-5 decision to Liberty in the first game of the championship round to set up the winner-take-all contest.

“I thought it was a bad idea to even start the final game,” Bruder said. “The field was in terrible condition because of all the rain. They told us that there was raining coming in, and that we wouldn’t get seven innings in. I think that’s a terrible way to decide a champion. If they weren’t going to play a full seven innings, then we should have been co-champions. But they decided to play, and then stopped the game when we were one out away from finishing the sixth inning.”

Tournament officials had announced earlier in the week that the tournament would not extend into Thursday, and felt there was no chance of resuming play on Wednesday.

“I feel bad we didn’t get a chance to play it to a conclusion,” Bruder said. “These kids deserved that opportunity.”

In the championship game, Liberty (46-24) took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third off LU starter Laura Napoli (11-12). The Cards got on the board in the fifth when Kelly Meeuwsen singled home Brynn Baca. Then came the LU offensive outburst that officially never was in the sixth as LU wrapped up its season with a 34-31 record.

The loss marked a bittersweet end to the careers of LU’s three seniors: Baca, Ciara Luna and Ashley McDowell, who were all named to the all-tournament team.

“All three meant so much to this program,” Bruder said. “I’m glad they got to participate in the postseason and to be recognized for their accomplishments. I just wish the ending had been better.”