Hofstra, Baylor Win In Different Fashion

Pride and Bears now set to face off Saturday morning

May 18, 2007

By Matt Chaprales

Special to CSTV.com

 

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - On a soggy and brisk afternoon, Baylor and Hofstra each kicked off the NCAA Softball Championship's Hempstead Regional in the way they had envisioned - by winning.

 

That's about all the two victors had in common.

 

While No. 7 Baylor cruised to an 8-2 win over Albany, Hofstra resorted to late inning heroics and defeated Harvard, 3-2.  Each claimed a spot in Saturday's winner's bracket; Hofstra just did it more emphatically.


 

 

 

The Pride, playing the late game against the Crimson, found itself trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs. On a 3-2 pitch, Melissa Hodge lined a game-tying home run to left field that sent the contest into extra innings.

 

The teams exchanged scoreless eighth innings and Harvard failed to score in the top of the ninth.

 

Enter Hofstra's Pam Dreslinski. 

 

With one out in the bottom of the ninth the Pride shortstop launched a shot deep to left, and far into the gloomy Long Island-sky.  The ball was still rising as it left the park, clinching the walk-off win for Hofstra, and sending the hometown faithful into pandemonium.

 

Had Dreslinski ever hit a bigger home run?

 

"No. Not even close," she said. "I was just hoping it would stay fair."

 

Although the blast was a moon-shot it had a hook to it on a day when the wind was strong and kept changing directions. It wasn't a sure thing until the home plate umpire started twirling his right hand. 

 

Just a little bit of extra drama for a team and fan base that rode an emotional rollercoaster to the victory.

 

The Pride had been one strike away from clinching the game back in the top of the seventh before second baseman Laura Jaxheimer committed two errors on one play with the bases loaded, allowing the tying and go ahead runs to score.

 

How's that for a precursor to some drama? 

 

"Wow," said Hofstra coach Bill Edwards. "Everybody got their money's worth today.  Great game for the fans, great game for Hofstra, obviously. Can't say enough about the clutch hitting we had today."

 

It's hard to say much about a game-tying and walk-off homerun coming on the heels of near-defeat in a postseason game.

 

"We like to make it exciting," added Edwards. "I don't know how many more of these I can take. I'm getting too old for this."

 

The pulsating finish to the game injected some much needed adrenaline into the regional that was slow to get going. Literally.

 

Stormy weather delayed the start of the early game between Baylor and Albany by more than an hour.  When the teams finally took the field at slightly past 1 p.m., the Lady Bears quickly exploited poor defense by the Great Danes to jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

 

Two more Albany errors in the fourth inning led to another five Baylor runs, highlighted by successive RBI hits from Brette Reagan, Chelsi Lake and Courtney Oberg. 

 

Carrying an 8-0 lead into the top of the fifth, Baylor was threatening to run-rule Albany out of its first NCAA tournament game of the year.

 

Not wanting to bow out after five innings, the Great Danes showed some life as Meagan Butsch led off the frame with a solid single. Leanne Tillman then took a big bite out of a Kirsten Shortridge-fastball, smashing a two-run shot to right-center, cutting the Baylor lead to six.

 

That was it for Albany as Shortridge put the finishing touches on a complete game, six-strikeout performance.

 

In the opinion of head coach Glenn Moore, the game wasn't picture perfect but he was content with the outcome.

 

"Considering all the distractions with the weather and all the uncontrollables you have I thought we played fairly well," said Moore.

 

In addition to weather, the location of the venue was also out of the control of the Lady Bears. Some felt they were slighted in having to travel nearly 1,700 miles for this regional bracket.

 

Moore didn't disagree.

 

"You'd love to be at home but you know there's a lot of teams across this country that feel like they should host it, not just Baylor University," he said. "So you accept what they give you and you either deal with it or you go home in a couple of games."

 

With the win, top-seeded Baylor has put itself in good position to advance to the Super Regional, which it would host if it can get that far.  The Lady Bears will face the second-seeded Pride Saturday in the winner's bracket. 

 

In the loser's bracket, third-seeded Harvard will try to bounce back against fourth-seeded Albany, with the loser eliminated.

 

On Friday, it was Hofstra and Baylor that prevailed, albeit in very different fashions. 

 

But in the end, a win's a win.