WMS Down to Three Teams as Spirit Fall to Lady Hearts
The Bloomington (IL) Lady Hearts topped the Lyons (PA) Spirit, 4-2, in the WMS Loser's Bracket Semifinal on Sunday morning at DeLuca Hall of Fame Field in Stratford, CT. The loss sent the Spirit home packing, but only after they eliminated the pre-tournament favorite Stratford Brakettes from contention.
Riley Phipps got things started for the Lady Hearts in the top of the second inning, when she led off and lined a single up the middle. Morgan Edwards sacrificed Phipps to second, putting a runner in scoring position with one out.
Ali Domkuski followed and drove in Phipps with a single to right, and continued on to third when the ball got away from the rightfielder and squirted into the corner. Sydney Bina came up next and drilled a sacrifice fly to deep center, scoring Phipps on the tag for a 2-0 lead.
The Spirit narrowed the gap in the bottom of the second, when Danielle Kitchen's seeing-eye single made it into centerfield with one out. Sarah Maulorico's groundout back to Bloomington starter Sarah Finck pushed Kitchen over to second, and a base hit by Sam Sweigart to left sent Kitchen home for a 2-1 score.
The Lady Hearts got that run back in the top of the third, as Kate McLean singled through the middle with one out and stole second base. McLean soon got caught leaning off second base on a throwdown from catcher Maulorico, but took off for third to evade the tag. The throw from second to third kicked away from the bag, allowing McLean to slide in safely with two outs. Tasha Alexander came up next and drilled a base hit through the left side, plating McLean for a 3-1 margin.
Lyons was again able to close in on the Lady Hearts in the bottom of the fourth, when Liz Gall singled into center. Kitchen delivered a towering double to the fence in left-center, sending Gall home to pull the Spirit within 3-2.
After a scoreless fifth inning for both clubs, the Hearts got an insurance run in the top of the sixth.
Alexander singled to left to start the frame, and never slowed down as she went from first-to-third on a groundout to third base. Alexander's aggressive baserunning put the Hearts in prime position for another run, and a sac fly by Phipps to left brought her home to stretch the margin to 4-2.
The Spirit would not give up easily, as they threatened again in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs in the frame, Bedell reached on an infield single and moved up on a walk by Gall. Jessica Strong was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Finck induced a comebacker to end the inning.
Finck retired the side in order in the seventh to propel the Lady Hearts into the Loser's Bracket Final against the Nook 23 Gold. She finished the contest with six strikeouts, while scattering five hits in the win. Gall went the distance for the Spirit in the loss, while fanning four batters.
The Lady Hearts had advanced to the matchup with the Spirit by virtue of a 10-4, elimination game victory over the New York City Havoc, while Lyons dropped the Brakettes in another elimination tilt, 5-4.
The Spirit closed out the 2017 Women's Major Softball National Championship with a fourth-place finish.