ST. GEORGE, UTAH-- The College of Central Florida softball team is one win away from playing for the NJCAA National Championship.
In their opener on Friday, the Patriots got another strong outing from Autumn Hanners and a key late hit from Caylee Underwood to get past Chattanooga (Tenn.) State 4-2 in the winner's bracket quarterfinals.
With the win, CF advances to the winner's bracket semifinals and will play tonight at 9:30 p.m. EST against either San Jacinto (Tex.) or Angelina (Tex.).
Hanners went the distance and didn't allow an earned run, while Underwood went 2-for-3 with a run scoring single in the sixth to give CF some much-needed breathing room.
In the win over CSC, Hanners upped her mark to 28 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run, including 19 straight in the tournament and improved to 3-0 in the event. Hanners (8-4) gave up just three hits and struck out one for the victory. She had a streak of 17 1/3 scoreless innings in the tournament, but made the key pitches late for her second complete game of the tournament and 10th on the season.
CF gained the momentum with a three-run effort in the third.
The Tigers took advantage of two errors and two walks to get to within one in top of the sixth inning. A three-base error in the outfield allowed two runs to score, but Hanners was able to bear down and get out of the jam.
Following the error, Hanners retired the next batter on a grounder. From there, CF issued an intentional walk and Hanners was able to keep the lead intact for her team, as she coaxed an inning-ending grounder.
In the bottom of the sixth, Hanners helped CF get some key insurance. She led off with a walk and pinch-runner Eryn Chester stole second with one out. Two batters later, Lizzy Burchfield drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive and Underwood continued her torrid hitting in the tournament with a run-scoring single that plated Chester.
In the seventh, Hanners navigated around a two-out single to put the Patriots on the brink of playing for a national championship.
Tonight's semifinal can be viewed at www.njcaatv.com