On Saturday, Liberty (43-16 overall, 23-1 ASUN regular season) won the 2022 ASUN Softball Championship with a 9-0, run-rule win in five innings over North Florida. With the title, the Lady Flames capture the ASUN’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Softball Championship for a second straight year.
Liberty, the No. 1-seed in the tournament, went a perfect 3-0 in the double elimination tournament this weekend, played on North Florida’s home field in Jacksonville, Florida. The Lady Flames first defeated 4-seed North Alabama, 6-4, on Thursday and then beat the 3-seed and host North Florida on Friday, 9-1, by run rule after 6 innings to advance to Saturday’s championship game. After losing to Liberty, UNF had to defeat Central Arkansas Friday night to avoid elimination and advance to the championship.
The Lady Flames won two of their three games in the ASUN Tournament against North Florida on their home field. Liberty was a perfect 5-0 against the Ospreys this season with all five games being played on UNF’s campus.
North Florida attempted to take the lead in the top of the first as they loaded the bases. Liberty starter Karlie Keeney got out of the jam without allowing a run. The Lady Flames used that opening to take control of the game, scoring five in the bottom of the first on four hits and two North Florida errors. The big hit of the frame came from Rachel Roupe with a three-RBI triple. In the bottom of the third, with the score still 5-0, Roupe doubled and then scored from second on a foul pop out to make it 6-0. Liberty would plate three more runs in the fourth.
“5 runs in the first inning, obviously, is nice to see, it was great,” said Liberty head coach Dot Richardson. “I want to congratulate North Florida and what they’ve done, a really good season they’ve had. It was a great competitor. We’ve played them five games. They’ve battled every single time. They threatened in the first inning, as well. We happened to get the breaks on our side.”
After a nearly one hour weather delay due to lightning in the area, the game resumed at the start of the fifth inning. Liberty needed to secure three outs to secure the win by run-rule, and they would do just that. Keeney pitched the complete five innings while allowing just three hits and striking out four while keeping the Ospreys off the scoreboard.
Kara Canetto was named the MVP of the 2022 ASUN Tournament while Rachel Roupe, Mary Claire Wilson, and Karlie Keeney were named to the All-Tournament Team. Canetto was 6 for 11 batting in the three games with 6 runs scored and one RBI. Roupe was 3 for 8 at the plate with 4 runs scored and 6 RBIs to go along with her double and triple. Wilson was also 3 for 8 batting with 4 runs and 2 RBIs. Keeney pitched in all 3 games for the Flames in the Tournament, pitching 13 innings while allowing 10 hits and 4 runs, 3 of them earned.
This is Liberty’s fifth conference tournament title in program history and second in the ASUN. The Lady Flames won three conference tournament championships in the Big South, doing so in 2002, 2011, and 2018.
The Lady Flames now advance to a second straight NCAA Tournament. In their last two trips to NCAA Regionals, the Lady Flames have advanced to the Regional final doing so in both 2018 and in 2021. Last year, Liberty was the 2-seed in the Knoxville Regional where the Lady Flames defeated the host Tennessee who was the No. 9 national seed in an elimination game. Liberty lost two games in the Regional, including the Regional Final, to eventual Women’s College World Series participant James Madison.
After starting the season 0-5 with four of those losses coming against top 25 opponents, Liberty has gone 43-11. Since starting conference play March 19, the Lady Flames have won 26 out of 30 games. Saturday’s win marked the 26th win in 27 tries against ASUN opponents this season. Liberty had won 36 straight ASUN regular season games prior to their loss in the regular season finale to Stetson. The Lady Flames set the ASUN record for most conference wins in a single season in conference history with 23.
Entering Saturday’s game, Liberty was No. 29 in RPI. The field for the 2022 NCAA Division I Softball Championships is scheduled to be announced Sunday, May 15. The selection show is scheduled to start at 7 pm on ESPN2. The 2022 NCAA Softball Tournament starts with Regionals which are scheduled to take place from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22.