HATTIESBURG, Miss. — With just two hits heading into the final inning of play, down a pair of runs, it looked like the Fire softball team was going to have to battle through the consolation bracket.
Heather Faulk and Brandee Pietrzak had other ideas.
Pietrzak’s two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh tied the game, and a two-out single, scored Hannah Smith Tuesday to give the Fire a thrilling 3-2 win over top seed and host William Carey.
The Fire advance to the opening round championship game for the second straight season.
“I expected hits like that in other innings, but we didn’t get them,” said Fire coach Anna Welsh. “Going into the seventh, I wasn’t sure what we’d get, but we knew we had the players that could come through with big hits at any time and we would be just fine.”
Until the seventh, SEU had struggled at the plate, totaling just two hits, and picking up two more baserunners via walks.
Pietrzak was responsible for Southeastern’s first hit of the game in the bottom of the second, but William Carey pitcher Hannah Moak retired the next nine hitters she faced.
The Crusaders took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third on a two-out, two-run triple to right-center.
Southeastern had had just two baserunners in the innings between Pietrzak’s single and the start of the seventh. Sam Holcomb led off the final inning with a single to shallow right field. Pietrzak’s sixth home run of the season tied the game at two.
With two outs and the bases empty, Natalie Hughes hit a pinch-hit double off the right field wall to put the winning run at second. Following a walk to Taylor Stoltz, it was Heather Faulk’s turn to keep the game going.
Her hit to shallow left-center scored Hannah Smith, who pinch ran for Hughes from second to secure the victory.
The championship game will be played Wednesday at Noon EDT.