MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – It took eight innings, but the top-seeded Barry University softball team (44-6) pulled out a 2-0 victory over the fourth-seeded Tampa Spartans (35-13) off an Ashley Likens RBI double in the top of the eighth to claim the 2008 NCAA Division II South Region Softball Championship.
Likens went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI to pace the Buccaneers at the plate, while Shyla Rider, Amanda Goelz and Ali Perantoni each recorded singles for Barry. Amber Jack (30-2) continued to dominate in the circle by tossing eight innings of three-hit shutout ball and struck out three to earn the win.
Just as they did in their first regular-season game with Tampa earlier in the year, the Buccaneers contained all the excitement until the eighth inning. Perantoni started the excitement after reaching on a one-out single. Brittany Anderson then reached on a dropped fly ball by Spartan centerfielder Cassie Barnes to put runners at first and second.
Still with only one out, Tampa pitcher Deanna Henriott struck Shyla Rider in the arm on a 2-1 pitch to load the bases. After a quick strikeout, Likens then belted a two-strike pitch to right center with the bases juiced that plated the game-winning runs. Although Barry lost the coin flip to be designated as the home team, Jack held the Tampa offense in check to help Barry clinch their fourth South Region Championship and their first since 2002.
Prior to the excitement in the eighth, it was a duel between opposing pitchers. Heather VanLandingham got the starting nod for the Spartans and tossed six innings of two-hit shutout ball and struck out one without allowing a walk. In the Bucs’ last regular-season series with Tampa, VanLandingham held to the Bucs to just four hits to earn a win. Henriott (24-9), however, relieved VanLandingham in the seventh and was saddled with the loss after giving up two unearned runs on three hits. Barry’s southpaw Jack allowed just three Spartan hits.
Regardless of outcome, fans would have to tip their hats to Tampa’s efforts. The Spartans opened the tournament with a 4-1 loss to Rollins to fall into the loser’s bracket. However, Tampa rebounded with a 5-0 win over Albany State and then posted a 3-0 win over West Florida to advance to the final day.
Weather conditions and long delays prevented the Spartans from playing the fourth game on Friday night so the team was forced to play three games on Saturday to challenge for the regional title. Facing the task head on, the Spartans opened the final day of the tournament with a 1-0, eight-inning win over Alabama-Huntsville. That win was followed up with a 2-0 win over Saint Leo, but a long day of competition and the South Florida heat finally took its toll as the team succumbed to Barry 2-0 in the regional championship.
Barry placed six on the South Region All-Tournament team headed by tournament Most Outstanding Player Amber Jack. Brittany Anderson made the All-tournament team at catcher, while first baseman Natalie Heeley also earned a spot on the team. They were joined by left fielder Shyla Rider and designated player Megan Young, while right fielder Cristina DeTagle was tagged as an at-large selection.
Tampa placed three on the All-Tournament team headed by freshman pitcher Deanna Henriott. She was joined by second baseman Ashley Arcuri and right fielder Ashley Carrea.
Other members of the South Region All-Tournament team were Rollins first-baseman Sherri Rabenold, West Florida third baseman Nicki VanCamp, Saint Leo center fielder April Slate and Alabama-Huntsville pitcher Caitlin Lee was tagged as an at-large selection.
The Buccaneers will now head to the 2008 Division II National Championship Spring Sports Festival in Houston, Texas May 14-19. It will be their fourth national championship tournament appearance in school history. The Bucs finished fifth in 1994 and 2002, but advanced to the national championship game in 1998, falling 2-1 to California (Pa.).
Ironically, Barry’s head coach, Danielle Penner, is the main individual who stopped the Buccaneers’ run towards a national title. Penner, who as a player helped lead California University of Pennsylvania to two consecutive NCAA Division II national championships in 1997 and 1998, earned her final intercollegiate win of a sensational career by pitching CUP past Barry, 2-1, in the ’98 national title game.
After assisting at her alma mater for two seasons, Penner came to South Florida to serve as an assistant coach with the Buccaneers from 2001-04. She then rejoined the Barry staff in 2006 for her first stint as an intercollegiate head coach, and has led the Buccaneers to national prominence ever since.
Barry 2, Tampa 0 (05/10/2008 at Miami Shores, Fla.)
Barry............... 000 000 02 - 2 5 0 (44-6)
Tampa............... 000 000 00 - 0 3 2 (35-13)
Pitchers: Barry - Amber Jack. Tampa - Heather VanLandingha; Deanna Henriott(7).
Win-Amber Jack(30-2) Loss-Deanna Henriott(24-9) T-1:38 A-271