Bray, Clements lift Shorter to upset of Cal State San Marcos
By Matt Green
GULF SHORES, Ala. -- A freshman spearheaded the defense and a senior provided the offense. Together, Maddie Bray and Emily Clements helped lead Shorter to another upset win in the national tournament.
Bray recorded her third win of the tournament with another complete game effort, Clements drove in all four Shorter runs, including the go-ahead two-run homer with two outs in the fifth, and 10th-ranked Shorter scored a 4-3 upset of second-ranked Cal State San Marcos in the opening round of bracket play at the NAIA Softball National Championship.
Shorter (50-11), one of four teams out of the Southern States Athletic Conference to make the final field of eight, moves on in the championship bracket to face third-ranked Oklahoma City (44-18) at 1:30 pm ET for a chance to advance to the Final Four. The Stars defeated William Carey 2-0 in its opening round contest.
Shorter twice rallied from a run down against Cal State San Marcos then got a huge defensive play from Jackie Castaneda and Bray to end the game with one of the country's leading home run hitters, Cal State San Marcos' Alyssa Dronenburg, standing in the batters box.
Both times it was Clements that supplied the big hit for the Lady Hawks. Her two-run single up the middle with two outs in the third gave Shorter its first lead at 2-1. After the Cougars battled back to take a 3-2 lead with runs in the fourth and fifth innings, Clements drove a 1-0 pitch from CSSM starter Courtney Allen over the wall in left with two away and Jackie Castaneda standing on third to give the Lady Hawks a 4-3 edge in the fifth that would ultimately stand.
It only did, however, because of a bizarre ending.
Cal State San Marcos' Alicia Ingram reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and then advanced to third on a passed ball to put the tying run 60 feet away with one out in the Cougar seventh. Bray fanned Kaitlin McGinley for the second out of the inning, but now had to face Dronenburg, who accounted for the Cougars' first two runs on the game with her 22nd and 23rd home runs of the season in the first and fourth innings, respectively.
Bray's first pitch to Dronenburg squirted free of Castaneda behind the plate and Ingram made the decision to try and score from third. But Castaneda was able to retrieve that ball and shovel it to Bray, who applied the tag on Ingram and ended the threat and the game.
Shorter, which was two-hit in last season's loss to Cal State San Marcos, had no trouble putting the ball in play against the Cougars in this latest matchup.
The Lady Hawks got their lead off batter on base in each of the first two innings, but simply couldn't push across a run. Kellee Stone led off the third with a single, Castaneda followed with a single then stole second to put runners on second and third, and after an Amanda Dailey strikeout, Clements ripped a ball up the middle to score both Stone and Castaneda for Shorter's first two runs.
A Charlsie Broome single and Castaneda double opened up the Shorter fifth and put runners at second and third with no one out. Dailey grounded into the rare 5-3-2 double play as Cal State San Marcos nailed Broome trying to score from third after throwing out Dailey at first, but Clements was there for the rescue again, drilling her first home run of the national tournament and eighth of the year to put Shorter ahead for good.
Both Castaneda and Clements recorded two hits for Shorter, which finished with eight hits total. Bray tossed seven innings and improved to 17-5 on the year, this time allowing the three earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts.
Shorter hopes to avenge another loss in last year's tournament when it squares off with Oklahoma City. The Stars, behind the arm of All-American Lily LaVelle, topped Shorter 4-2 in an elimination game at the 2011 national tournament.