DECATUR, Ala. — Entering play on Monday, The Lee University softballers had lost only once when leading after six innings. However the Lady Flames were unable to protect a lead in the seventh inning of their final pool play game at the NAIA National Tournament and as a result the season came to an abrupt end.
The Lady Flames (57-5) held a 6-4 lead going to the bottom of the seventh inning against Trevecca Nazarene (44-15) but the Trojans scratched across three unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to claim a 7-6 victory and a berth in the elimination round of the Tournament.
Lee started out strong as Hernanza Ruiz belted her second home run of the tournament to give the Lady Flames the early lead as a part of a three-run second inning. Trevecca got a two-RBI double from Lauren Baker in the bottom of the frame to pull within one but the Lady Flames answered immediately. Savanna Bell laced her second two-run single of the game in the top of the third to push the lead out to three runs once more, at 5-2.
Johana Gomez drove in a run with a single in the top of the fifth inning but in the bottom half the Trojans mounted their rally.
Kelsey Lantrip launched a two-run homer to left field in the fifth to pull Trevecca to within a pair at 6-4 but Gomez was able to escape with no further damage. Gomez retired the side unscathed in the sixth and headed into the bottom of the seventh frame and the Lady Flames needed just three outs to advance.
Gomez allowed a lead-off single in the seventh and coach Emily Russell went to the bullpen for Brittany Balough. Balough walked the only hitter she faced and with no one out and runners at the corners Russell again went to the pen, this time for Sara Mitchell. Mitchell got a ground ball to third but Caitlin Haley could not handle the throw, allowing both runners to score and Lauren Baker to get to third with no one out. Gomez re-entered the circle and retired Brooke Brennan on an attempted squeeze bunt. Lantrip followed with a successful squeeze winning the game for the Trojans and ending the Lady Flames’ season.
Mitchell (3-1) took the loss, and Baker (21-8) earned the victory for the Trojans in the circle. Baker relieved Trojans starter Riley Mashburn in the sixth, working two innings of hitless relief striking out one. Gomez gave up five runs on five hits in six and a third innings of work striking out 12 Trojans in the game.
Bell had a good game offensively for Lee notching a double and two singles in four at bats and driving in four for the Lady Flames. Haley singled and scored twice for Lee as well. Lantrip and Baker accounted for all five RBI the Trojans recorded with Lantrip knocking in three and Baker driving a pair home.
The loss ends the Lady Flames record-setting season as they close the 2010 campaign with a record 55 victories and only five defeats, also a program record.