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(Photos by Tony Quinn, theACC.com)
Virginia Tech 10, Syracuse 4: Hokies Pull Away From Orange
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (theACC.com) – With sixth-seeded Syracuse lurking dangerously close, Virginia Tech’s Katey Smith literally slammed the door in Thursday evening’s final Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship quarterfinal game.
Smith’s two-out grand slam capped a five-run bottom of the sixth inning that sealed a 10-4 victory for the third-seeded Hokies and sent them into Friday’s 3:30 p.m. semifinal game against second-seeded Notre Dame.
Smith’s ninth home run of the season down the left field line, coupled with Lauren Gaskill’s RBI single earlier in the frame, allowed Virginia Tech (35-20) to exhale after the Orange (24-25) scored twice in the top of the sixth to close within 5-4.
The win could prove to be key for head coach Scot Thomas’ Hokies, who entered the ACC Championship with an RPI of 46 and hopes of improving their NCAA tournament resume. Virginia Tech will try to further bolster its NCAA chances against a Notre Dame team from which it took of three in the team’s regular-season ACC series in mid-March at Blacksburg, Virginia.
Smith finished with five RBIs on the night, and Gaskill had two of Virginia Tech’s six hits. The Hokies made the most of eight walks and picked up an unearned run on a Syracuse error in the bottom of the fourth to go up 3-2 after the Orange had tied the score with a pair of runs in the top of the inning.
Michelle Prong joined Smith in going deep for Virginia Tech, with her second home run of the season accounting for the game’s first run in the bottom of the third.
Corinne Ozanne and Julie Wambold each hit solo shots for the Orange, and Danielle Chitkowkski finished 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.
Virginia Tech starter Kelly Heinz (20-12) allowed five hits and all four Syracuse runs in six innings while picking up the win. She walked seven batters and struck out three.
Syracuse starter Sydney O’Hara (16-12) took the loss. O’Hara worked four innings and yielded five runs (four earned) on four hits. She walked four batters and struck out two.
Notre Dame 3, Boston College 0: Arizmendi Lifts Notre Dame Past BC
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (theACC.com) – Second-seeded Notre Dame and seventh-seeded Boston College locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel early Friday evening, but Micaela Arizmendi settled the issue with one decisive swing.
Arizmendi’s three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning lifted the Fighting Irish to a 3-0 win in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship.
The clutch home run – Arizmendi’s 16th of the season – sent the Fighting Irish (38-10) into the Friday’s 3:30 p.m. semifinal game against the winner of Friday night’s later game between third-seeded Virginia Tech and sixth-seeded Syracuse.
It also made a winner of senior right-hander Laura Winter (26-4), who pitched brilliantly on a night in which Eagle freshman counterpart Jordan Weed was nearly as good.
Winter, a first-team All-ACC selection, retired the final 14 Boston College batters in order en route to finishing with a two-hit shutout. The San Diego native did not allow a walk while striking out nine, and only two Eagles made it as far as second base.
Boston College’s Weed faced the Irish just four days following the conclusion of a regular-season series in which she yielded 15 runs and 18 hits in eight innings pitched. Thursday evening saw Weed (11-9) throw just 67 pitches and carry a one-hitter into the bottom of the sixth inning of a scoreless game.
But the Irish finally found an answer, as Emilee Koerner drew a two-out walk, and Katey Haus doubled to left field to put runners on second and third.
That set the table for the Arizmendi, who worked a 1-1 count before sending a towering shot over the wall in right center that put Notre Dame in Friday’s semifinals.
Boston College (30-24) played in the ACC Championship for the first time since 2008. The Eagles’ 12 ACC wins during the regular season were their most since joining the conference in 2005-06.
North Carolina 8, NC State 4: Tar Heels To Face FSU In Semifinals
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (theACC.com) – North Carolina turned in a solid effort against rival NC State on Thursday afternoon, but the Tar Heels hope they saved an even better performance for Friday.
The fifth-seeded Tar Heels downed fourth-seeded rival NC State by an 8-4 score in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship and earned a shot at top-seeded Florida State in Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal game.
UNC, which lost two of three to NC State in their final regular-season series, countered on Thursday with a quality pitching outing by starter Lori Spingola and long-ball heroics from Kendra Lynch, Jenna Kelly and Amber Parrish.
Spingola (18-14) worked 5 1/3 innings, struck out eight batters while walking one and held the Wolfpack hitless for the first four innings as the Tar Heels built a 7-0 lead.
Lynch and Kelly combined to drive in seven runs, four of which came on Lynch’s grand slam home run in the top of the first inning.
Leah Jones hit a two-run homer for the Wolfpack, and Renada Davis also finished with a pair of RBIs.
UNC (24-25) got to NC State All-ACC pitcher Emily Weiman (28-13) in its first at-bat. After the Tar Heels loaded the bases on an error and a pair of base hits, Kelly put down a bunt single to squeeze home Amy Nece with the game’s first run. Lynch then drove a 3-2 pitch over the fence in right-center for her grand slam and a quick 5-0 lead.
UNC upped the margin to 7-0 in the third inning on Kelly’s one-out, two-run homer to dead center field.
Spingola held the Wolfpack (34-16) hitless until the bottom of the fifth, when Sara Lippard dropped a single into left field. NC State collected two more hits in the inning, including a two-run double by Davis, but UNC avoided further damage with a double play and took a 7-2 lead into the top of the sixth.
Still, the Wolfpack wasn’t finished. With one out and one on in the bottom of the sixth, Jones delivered her seventh home run of the season to bring NC State within 7-4. Spingola departed at that point, giving way to Lauren Batten on the mound.
Batten got the second out of the inning, and fellow reliever Ashley Bone came on to pick up the third. Parrish then led off the seventh inning with her team-leading 15th home run of the season to account for UNC’s final 8-4 winning margin.
As they did against the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels will look to reverse regular-season results when they face Florida State on Friday. The Seminoles took all three meetings when the teams met at Chapel Hill, North Carolina on March 30 and 31, winning by 6-0, 5-3 and 5-1 scores.
Florida State 11, Georgia Tech 5: O’Brien Powers Seminoles Into Semifinals
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (theACC.com) – Thursday morning brought news that the Atlantic Coast Conference’s head softball coaches had voted Florida State shortstop Maddie O’Brien the 2014 ACC Player of the Year.
Very few second-guessed the selection at the time. No one did a few hours later.
O’Brien tied two ACC Softball Championship single-game records by homering twice and driving in five runs while leading the top-seeded Seminoles to an 11-5 victory over eighth-seeded Georgia Tech in the opening quarterfinal game.
Nationally fourth-ranked FSU (48-6) moved on to face fourth-seeded NC State or fifth-seeded North Carolina in Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal game. The Wolfpack and the Tar Heels squared off in Thursday’s second quarterfinal game at Maryland Softball Stadium.
O’Brien, a junior from Palm Harbor, Florida, highlighted a four-run second inning with a two-run homer as Florida State built an early 7-1 lead. Her three-run shot in the third inning put the Seminoles in front 11-4 and countered the three runs that the Yellow Jackets (23-24) had mustered in the top half of the frame.
O’Brien now has 22 home runs on the year and extended her ACC single-season RBI record to 79.
Florida State gained the upper hand, even before O’Brien’s power surge, by parlaying six walks and an error into a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Georgia Tech possessed enough of a counterpunch to chase FSU starter and ACC Pitcher of the Year Lacey Waldrop with three runs in the top of the third, but the Seminoles never led by fewer than two runs after the opening inning.
Second-team All-ACC pitcher Jessica Burroughs (17-1) picked up the win on the mound for FSU. Burroughs worked five innings in relief, allowing four hits and one run while striking out four. Kylie Kleinschmidt (15-13) started on the mound for the Yellow Jackets and took the loss.
Celeste Gomez added two hits and drove in a run for the Seminoles. Alysha Rudnik had two of Georgia Tech’s seven hits, including her 11th home run of the year in the fourth inning.