On Saturday, Liberty (42-13) won the 2021 ASUN Softball Championship with a 5-4 win over Kennesaw State. With the title, the Lady Flames capture the ASUN’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Softball Championship.
Liberty went a perfect 3-0 in the double elimination tournament this weekend, played on Kennesaw State’s home field in Kennesaw, Georgia. The Lady Flames first defeated Jacksonville, 1-0, on Thursday and then beat the Owls on Friday, 4-1, to advance to Saturday’s championship game. After losing to Liberty, KSU had to defeat Jacksonville Friday evening to avoid elimination and advance to the championship.
The Owls proved to be a tough out in Saturday’s championship game as they kept fighting back after Liberty would go ahead. The Lady Flames jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Amber Bishop-Riley scored the first run. In the 3rd, Kennesaw State would tie the game on an error.
In the 4th inning, Denay Griffin blasted the ball beyond the left field fence as Liberty reclaimed the lead 2-1. The Flames would add two more runs in the 5th inning as they took control of the game. Kennesaw State came right back with a three-run home run to tie the game in the top of the 6th off of starter Emily Kirby. Karlie Keeney would come on inrelief and keep the Owls in check the rest of the way.
In the bottom of the 6th, pinch runner Mary Claire Wilson would score the go-ahead and eventual winning run as she scored from 2nd on a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
This is Liberty’s fourth conference tournament title in program history and first in the ASUN. The Lady Flames last won a conference tournament championship in the Big South in 2018. Previously, Liberty also won the 2002 and 2011 Big South title.
Amber Bishop-Riley was named the MVP of the ASUN Tournament while Caroline Hudson, Emily Kirby, and Autumn Bishop were all named to the All-Tournament Team.
Liberty, who is ranked No. 25 in both major polls this week, has won 21 of its last 22 games. That stretch includes 12 shutout wins. The top 25 national ranking received this past Monday is the first time the program has ever cracked the top 25 poll, receiving the ranking in both the NFCA Top 25 and the USA Softball Collegiate Top 25.
Entering Saturday’s game, Liberty was No. 18 in RPI. The field for the 2021 NCAA Division I Softball Championships is scheduled to be announced Sunday, May 16. The selection show is scheduled to start at 9 pm on ESPN2. The 2021 NCAA Softball Tournament starts with regionals which are scheduled to take place from Friday, May 21 to Sunday, May 23.
*photo courtesy ASUN Sports