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Benedict needs 3 wins today for title

Posted on Sat, Apr. 17, 2004, The State Newspaper

Benedict needs 3 wins today for title

BY JOHN DEVLIN

Special Correspondent

Albany State has emerged as the surprise team in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference softball tournament.

The Golden Rams (25-37) advanced to today’s championship game at noon with Friday victories against regular-season division champions Benedict and Kentucky State.

ASU defeated Western Division champ Kentucky State 8-0 in the early game Friday behind the stellar pitching of Corinna Garcia, and then turned away Benedict 4-2 behind No. 2 hurler Christina Harris.

Benedict will face Kentucky State today in a 9 a.m. elimination game. The survivor must beat Albany State twice to win the tourney title and move on to the NCAA Division II regional playoffs.

“Our kids came into the tournament with a lot of confidence, despite our record,” said Albany State coach Robert Skinner, whose team finished second in the East, one game behind Benedict. “We’ve played against great competition this season, and though we didn’t beat any ranked teams, that experience is really paying off for us right now.”

Skinner had no reservations about sending Harris to the mound against Benedict in the showdown between the two teams that hadn’t lost in the double-elimination tournament.

“We’ve been rotating Garcia and Harris all season, so there was no way I was going to take the ball out of her hands,” Skinner said. “And she did a great job of keeping (Benedict) off the bases, because that’s when they are a very dangerous team with all their speed.”

Harris was effective, if not spectacular. The composed right-hander had no strikeouts, but didn’t issue a walk, either. She simply threw strikes and relied on her defense. Benedict had 10 hits, but never had more than two runners on base at any time and only once had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs.

Trailing 4-1, the Tigers got a boost when freshman outfielder Lynia Lyburd led off the bottom of the sixth with an inside-the-park home run — a one-hop rope to the fence in left-center field. Cylena Norris followed with a single, but catcher Chanika Braithwate bounced into a double play.

“I really thought we were going to make our move right there,” Benedict coach Gwendolyn Rouse said. “(Harris) pitched a good game, and they played good defense, but it was still disappointing because we’re just not hitting the ball the way we did for most of the season.”

Albany State scored once in the first and three times in the second before Benedict starter Deanna Butler settled into a groove.

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