Softball's final-inning rally halted by Ball State flight plans
By ZACH BOND
DeLAND, Fla. -- In one of the strangest ways to end a softball game, Northern Colorado fell to Ball State 9-5 Sunday on the final day of the Stetson Classic, despite mounting a furious comeback in a seventh inning that, in the end, never happened.
After giving up six runs in the sixth inning, the Bears (9-9) went into the top-half of the seventh inning down 9-5.
From there, things got a little crazy.
In the seventh the Bears quickly loaded the bases with nobody out before Jamie Pollak came up and knocked in the inning's first run after a fielding error by the Cardinals. Tianalia Fa'asua then followed that with an RBI single, and, with the bases still loaded, Erin Wilkinson was hit by a pitch, scoring the third run of the inning.
Freshman Melissa Marcovecchio then played hero for the Bears -- for a little bit, anyway -- coming up with the go-ahead hit after ripping a two-run single through the left side of the infield.
Unfortunately, all the late-inning drama was for naught because Ball State had a plane to catch.
Before the game started, both teams agreed to a "drop-dead" time -- an absolute deadline when the game would be deemed over, no matter the score or inning. The Bears' seventh-inning rally came just as the deadline approached, which meant Ball State was not allowed to bat.
The NCAA rules for this situation states that in such a case the score of the game reverts back to the last completed inning and the game ends at that spot.
Thus, Northern Colorado saw all five of its seventh-inning runs cleared off the board and walked away with a 9-5 defeat.
"At the end of the day, I don't really care whether it was a win or a loss," Northern Colorado coach Mark Montgomery said. "Our girls played amazing. We did so many right things, and our process was fantastic. I'm just very pleased with the performance and heart of the players today.
"I'm just not worried about the outcome at this point in the season. Wins and losses are fine, but it's really about how we're playing the game, and I felt we played exceptionally well today."
The strange ending was a fitting way to cap a tournament that saw the host-Hatters pull out of some of their scheduled games because of pitching-staff injuries, only to be replaced by Youngstown State, and saw all of Saturday's games postponed or cancelled because of rain.
On offense the Bears were led by Nicole Hudson, who blasted a two-run home run in the sixth (her first deep shot of season that give Northern Colorado a 5-3 lead.
Freshman Mikayla Duffy continued her strong tournament after scoring a run while going 1-for-2 from the plate. For the weekend, she led the team with three hits in six at-bats.
Duffy also got the start in the circle for Northern Colorado and pitched well. She battled fatigue and a strong Cardinals offense but threw five innings and allowed just three runs.
With Duffy tiring, though, Montgomery decided to let sophomore Megan Wilkinson come in and close the game out. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and Wilkinson gave up three runs while getting just one batter out as part of the Cardinals' big six-run sixth inning.
Northern Colorado will continue its Florida spring-break trip Tuesday with a nonconference game against Central Florida in Orlando and then play an exhibition game against the Dutch national team Thursday, March 15.
A spot in the prestigious University of South Florida Under Armour Showcase awaits after that, starting Friday and running through Sunday.
"Even though we didn't get the win that we were looking for, I think we are playing some good softball," Montgomery said. "If we continue to make the right kinds of plays and stick to our process, the results will come."