KENNESAW, Ga. – No. 1 North Division Seed Liberty claimed its fourth conference tournament title in program history, defeating the host, No. 2 North seed Kennesaw State 5-4 in the title game of the 2021 ASUN Softball Championship, Saturday at Bailey Park.
The Lady Flames (42-13) secured the ASUN’s automatic qualifying berth to the 2021 NCAA Division I Softball Championship, whose field will be announced tomorrow at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. Kennesaw State (26-25) was making its third appearance in the ASUN final.
Liberty earned its first ASUN title in program history after winning three conference tournament titles (2002, 2011, 2018) while in the Big South.
Liberty senior Amber Bishop-Riley was named the ASUN Tournament MVP, becoming the fifth Liberty player and first since Autumn Bishop in 2018 to be named conference tournament MVP. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Autumn Bishop, Caroline Hudson and Emily Kirby.
Liberty – 1st INNING – Bishop-Riley scores on throwing error by catcher, 1-0
Kennesaw State – 3rd INNING – Alexander steals third, scores on throwing error by catcher, 1-1
Liberty – 4th INNING – Griffin homers, 2-1
Liberty – 5th INNING – Bishop-Riley doubles, Bishop scores, 3-1
Liberty – 5th INNING – Sweat singles, Hodum scores, 4-1
Kennesaw State – 6th INNING – Cates homers, Solorzano and Florence score, 4-4
Liberty – 6th INNING – Hudson flies out, sac fly, Wilson scores, 5-4
– Liberty outhit the Owls 9-4. Both teams committed two errors. The Lady Flames left five runners on base and KSU stranded three.
– Karlie Keeney (15-4) earned the win, allowing one hit and striking out one in 1 1/3 innings of relief. Kirby yielded four runs (three earned) on three hits, walking one and fanning one in 5 2/3 innings.
– Melanie Bennett (19-11) drew the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits, walking two and striking out three.
– Kara Canetto (2-for-2), Devyn Howard (2-for-3) and Bishop-Riley (2-for-3, double, RBI, run scored) all had two hits. Denay Griffin hit her second homer of the season, while Emily Sweat and Hudson both drove in one run apiece.
– KSU’s Taylor Cates went 1-for-3 with a three-run home run to her credit.
– With the game tied at 1-1 in the fourth inning, Griffin lined a solo homer to left to break the tie.
– The Lady Flames added a pair in the bottom of the fifth on a Bishop-Riley RBI double and an RBI single from Sweat.
– With nobody on and two out in top of the sixth, Kirby hit Florence with a pitch and walked Solorzano before Cates tied it with a three-run homer.
– Howard led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. Pinch runner Mary Claire Wilson was sent to second on a sacrifice bunt. Caroline Hudson sent a long flyout to center field and Wilson scored from second on the play.
– A two-out error kept KSU’s hopes alive in the seventh, but Emily Sweat ran down a Brea Dickey foul ball for the championship-clinching out.
Beyond the Box Score
– The Lady Flames lead the all-time series 12-6 against Kennesaw State, including 7-2 this season. Liberty has won all five meetings with the Owls at Bailey Park this year.
– Today was the Lady Flames’ ninth appearance all-time in a conference championship final game.
– Liberty is 35-4 when scoring first this season and 21-1 when scoring in the first inning.
– The Lady Flames are 13-5 in one-run games this season.
– One day after Kirby became the 12th pitcher in program history to record a 15-win season, Keeney became the 13th Liberty pitcher with a 15-win season to her credit. This is the fifth time in program history that two Lady Flames have won at least 15 games in the same season, and first since Julia DiMartino (17) and Chase Cassady (15) in 2019.
– Liberty is now 52-48 all-time in conference tournament play, including 15-11 in conference tournament games under Head Coach Dot Richardson.
– The Lady Flames, who are ranked No. 25 in both major polls this week, are 21-1 in their last 22 games. That stretch includes 12 shutout wins and seven one-run victories.
Liberty will find out its seeding and location for the 2021 NCAA Division I Softball Championship through the selection show tomorrow at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. The Regionals will be held at 16 different sites, taking place next Friday through Sunday.