Softball loses hard-fought championship game to Millsaps, 8-4

DANVILLE, Ky.--In its third straight game of the day after winning twice, the Birmingham-Southern softball team lost to Millsaps, 8-4, in the winner-take-all title game of the 2013 Southern Athletic Association Softball Championship, hosted by Centre College in Danville, Ky.

BSC ends the season with a 28-18 record, while the Majors move to 24-20. The SAA has no automatic bid to the NCAA Championship until the 2015 season, but Millsaps could still receive an at-large bid to the tournament.

The third-seeded Panthers started the day with a loser's bracket game against top-seeded Berry, which was supposed to be played Saturday evening but was postponed to this morning due to weather. BSC won in dramatic fashion, with the game going scoreless until the top of the seventh when Berry plated one run to take the lead. In the bottom of the seventh with one out, the Vikings walked sophomore Taylor Bassett for the fourth time on the day, followed by another out. With a full count and two outs on the board, and one out away from being eliminated, sophomore Alyssa Statham hit her sixth home run of the season to end the game and give the Panthers a 2-1 victory, moving them to the championship series against fifth-seeded Millsaps.

BSC would need to win two against the Majors to take the title, and the Panthers kept the drama going in the first game against Millsaps by going to extra innings. BSC scored in the top of the first on an RBI by senior Brittany Berkopec, and the Majors tied it up in the bottom of the fourth and then took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, 2-1. But Statham knotted it back up with another home run in the top of the sixth to tie it up 2-2. The Panthers took advantage of a Millsaps error in the top of the ninth, scoring twice, and held the Majors scoreless in the bottom of the ninth to win 4-2 and advance to a winner-take-all game.

In the final game of the day, Millsaps found their bats early, scoring three in the top of the second, but the Panthers tied it up in the bottom of the third with two home runs - one by Bassett and a two-run shot by Statham, her third of the day. The Majors responded quickly, scoring twice in the top of the fourth to take back the lead, 5-3. In the bottom of the fourth, the Panthers were able to cut it to 5-4, but Millsaps scored again in the top of the fifth to go up 6-4 and added two more in the top of the sixth to go up 8-4. BSC had a chance to score more in the bottom of the sixth, leaving two runners stranded, and then didn't get on base in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Millsaps to clinch the conference title with the 8-4 victory.

The workhorse of the tournament for the Panthers was sophomore hurler Bethany Fronk, who threw every inning of all six games - 49 total innings - in a span of approximately 80 hours. She gave up 14 earned runs with 31 strikeouts over the six games, and ends the season with a 22-15 record and a 2.86 ERA.