May 10, 2014
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Down 6-0 after one inning, Amanda Hansen and Long Beach State persevered through nine innings, coming back to defeat UC Santa Barbara 10-9 on the road to win the 2014 Big West Championship.
Junior Amanda Hansen earned her 19th win of the season with an 8.2 inning effort in relief, a career-long in a high-pressure game.
The 49ers dealt not just with a tough Gauchos squad, but also with the elements, as 15 mile per hour winds and 30 MPH gusts roared through the stadium, making each fly ball ever more difficult. Long Beach State was able to ultimately prevail in a thrilling game, living up to its billing as the de facto championship between two teams tied at the top of the Big West standings entering the final game of the season.
UC Santa Barbara (34-20, 14-7 Big West) retired LBSU in order in the first, and then saw six straight batters reach base against Erin Jones-Wesley, scoring three runs, two coming on a home run from Shelby Wisdom. A double by DeJanee Moore with the bases loaded scored two more and a sacrifice bunt gave the Gauchos a 6-0 lead over Long Beach State (38-17, 15-6 Big West).
Long Beach State got on the board in the third inning, as Shayna Kimbrough and Cya Neal hit two straight singles with two outs. A pop fly from Darian Tautalafua then caught a gust, dropping in for a hit and bringing Kimbrough around to score. With the bases loaded, a Shelby Wisdom strikeout of Ashlynn Booker ended the rally for The Beach.
Hansen retired the side in order in the third inning, and then the 49er bats came alive in the fourth. Lauren Lombardi started the inning with a base hit, followed by a double by Sarah Carrasco. A single by Hannah De Gaetano brought home the first run of the inning. An RBI groundout by Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi cut the lead to 6-3, and two straight RBI singles from Kimbrough and Neal pulled the score to 6-5.
The rally continued, as the bases loaded up for Lombardi, and the freshman came through with her second grand slam of the season, putting Long Beach State out in front 9-6.
That lead held until the sixth inning, when a seeing-eye single by Arianna Palomares and a double put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Hansen was able to pick up two groundouts, handling one herself, but Kathryn Pilpil tripled to the gap in right center to bring the Gauchos right back into the contest, scoring a pair. Pilpil then scored on an RBI single from Emily Brucelas, but a 6-4 groundout ended the threat with the score tied after six innings.
Wisdom shut down Long Beach State in the seventh, and the Gauchos had a chance to win the game in regulartion. With the top of the order up, Kristen Clark singled to start the inning, and was bunted over to second base. Electing to put Shelby Wisdom on base with an intentional walk, the move worked out for LBSU head coach Kim Sowder, as MeShalon Moore flew out to shallow center field for the second out and Lauren Boser followed with the third out, sending the game to extra innings.
Another quick inning by Wisdom set up another opportunity for the Gauchos to break the tie in the eighth. With two outs, DeJanee Moore earned a walk from Hansen, who then hit Stacy Cavazos to put a runner in scoring position.
Clark hit a sharp single to left, but a strong throw from Tautalafua in left field gunned down Moore at the plate to extend the game as Sandoval was able to apply the tag for the third out.
A popup from Lombardi dropped in for a sun and wind aided hit, one of a few on the day for both teams, and The Beach was able to capitalize on the momentum from the two consecutive plays.
Carrasco was hit by a pitch while trying to lay down a bunt, and De Gaetano succeeded in the next at-bat, pushing both runners into scoring position. Tupua-Tautalatasi's hit into left field was trapped by a diving Clark, allowing pinch runner Alexie Johnson to score from third, giving Long Beach State a precious one-run lead heading into the bottom half of the ninth.
Palomares doubled to start the inning, but Hansen was able to retire the following three batters, a second fly ball to Tautalafua in the inning finishing out the game.
Lombardi finished with three hits and four RBI, while Neal also had three hits to lead the offense. Kimbrough, Tautalafua, Sandoval, and Tupua-Tautalatasi all also had two hits, with none bigger than the final hit of the day from the junior center fielder.
With the win, Long Beach State takes the eighth Big West Championship in school history and earns the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament selection show will be broadcast Sunday at 7 p.m. PT on ESPNU.
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