Sunday, April 18, 2004

Posted on Sun, Apr. 18, 2004, The State Newspaper

Benedict wins three games to claim title

Tigers battle back from losers’ bracket, beat Albany St. twice


Special Correspondent

SIAC Softball ChampionsThe Benedict College softball team stormed out of the loser’s bracket and won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with three victories Saturday at T.S. Martin Park.

The Tigers (28-11) will advance to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional tournament in two weeks at a site to be determined.

Benedict’s march to the title began with a 5-3 extra-inning win against SIAC Western Division champion Kentucky State. The Tigers then earned 7-6 and 13-6 victories against Albany State, the team that dumped the Tigers into the loser’s bracket with a 4-2 win Friday.

“We all knew the situation when got here this morning,” said Benedict coach Gwendolyn Rouse, whose last playoff team at the school was in 2002 at the NAIA level. “I just told the girls that they’d have to go all out an inning at a time. We saw some good pitching, but the bats really came through.”

Rouse’s primary concern after the first two days of the tournament was a lack of clutch hitting, primarily in the loss to Albany State. But the Benedict attack returned to form Saturday, led by a trio of Virgin Island natives: freshmen Lalique Gumbs-Prince and Lynia Lyburd and junior Shackia Liburd.

Lynia Lyburd, MVPGumbs-Prince reached base eight times in 12 at-bats and scored seven runs. Lyburd, who was named the tournament MVP, drove in five runs in the three games. Liburd finished with six RBIs and made several defensive plays at shortstop.

“I don’t know what was wrong before, but we showed our stuff today,” Gumbs-Prince said. “My job as a leadoff hitter is to get on base and set the tempo for my team. I knew that I’d have to relax and be patient at the plate, and I was able to do that.”

“When Lalique is getting on base and running around, the rest of us seemed to piggy back off it,” said Lyburd, who had at least one RBI in all six tournament games,

Against Kentucky State, the Tigers built a 3-1 lead, but the Thorobreds forced the game into extra innings with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings against Benedict starter Deanna Butler.

In the top of the eighth, Lyburd’s bad-hop single over KSU shortstop Tara Whelan’s glove plated Tiffany White and Gumbs-Prince with the winning runs.

In the championship round, Albany State (25-39) needed one win to earn the title in the double-elimination tournament while Benedict needed to win twice.

Benedict built a 7-2 lead through five innings. Gumbs-Prince had three hits and scored three times. Liburd drove in four runs with three hits, and Lyburd had two hits and two RBIs.

But the Golden Rams pulled within one, 7-6, in the bottom of the seventh and had two runners on base when Tigers pitcher Tina Sanders recorded the last out.

In the finale, Albany State (25-39) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first against Sanders, who started again for Benedict. The Tigers countered with two runs in the bottom of the first and for 10 runs in the second.

LaShanteau Green’s two-run single broke a tie at 3, putting the Tigers ahead for good.

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