RALEIGH, N.C. – In the preseason, Head Coach Nikki Bynum Bumpass challenged the Saint Augustine’s University softball team to make history.
The Lady Falcons listened as they capped a tremendous run in the conference tournament with an 8-2 victory over Chowan University for the CIAA Softball Championship at Walnut Creek Softball Complex on Sunday, May 3, 2015. They won their first title since 1991 and earned their first-ever NCAA Division II Tournament berth. The regional pairings will be announced on TheNCAA.com softball selection show on Monday, May 4.
The Lady Falcons (22-13 overall) entered the conference tournament as CIAA Southern Division Co-Champions but the league crown solidified their status as one of the top softball teams in school history. They won more than 20 games for the first time during the four-year tenure of Bumpass, the CIAA Softball Coach of the Year, and are the fourth Lady Falcons’ squad to win a conference championship. This is their first CIAA softball title as a University.
The Lady Falcons, who were the Southern Division top seed, breezed through the winner’s bracket to reach the final round unbeaten. They defeated Bowie State University 11-6 and Virginia State University 9-1 on Thursday, and Chowan 4-1 on Saturday after inclement weather forced a postponement on Friday.
Chowan came back Sunday to hand the Lady Falcons their first tournament loss at 3-2 in the finals, but the Lady Falcons were confident heading into the second game. No conference team swept the Lady Falcons this season.
Led by tournament MVP Meranda Zanni (So./Phoenix, OR) and All-CIAA Tournament picks Marley Parker (Fr./Langley, British Columbia) and Hannah Stutts (Sr./Statesville, NC), the Lady Falcons cruised to an easy victory in the second game even though the Hawks put up a brief challenge in the last two innings.
Zanni went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored, and Parker went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Danyelle Noland (Fr./Nashville, NC) went 3-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored, and Daja White (Jr./Leland, NC) went 2-for-4 with a double and one RBI for the Lady Falcons, who had 11 hits. Stutts scattered seven hits in six innings for the pitching win, and Zanni finished off the Hawks in the seventh inning. The Hawks, the Northern Division champions, had eight hits in the game.
After a scoreless tie through two innings, the Lady Falcons opened a 4-0 lead in the third inning. Zanni scored Noland on a single and Korey Hill (So./Virginia Beach, VA) scored on an error. Parker scored Zanni on a two-run single.
The Lady Falcons pushed the lead to 7-0 with three runs in the fifth inning. Zanni scored Noland on a single and Parker scored Zanni on a sacrifice fly. Daja White scored Akera McPhaul (Fr./Greensboro, NC) on a double.
Noland drove in Taylor Walters (Sr./Douglasville, GA) in the top of the sixth inning for an 8-0 lead. The Lady Falcons nearly ended the game in the sixth due to the eight-run mercy rule but gave up two runs on a double by Danielle Baccus with two out in the bottom of the inning.
The Hawks (26-14 overall) threatened again in the seventh after a walk and single by Tina White put runners on second and first with no outs, but Zanni, who replaced Stutts in the bottom seventh, forced a fly out, a pop up and a fly out to end the game. The third out sparked a celebration at the pitcher’s mound.
Jasmine Rios (Fr./Greensboro, NC) joined her teammates on the All-CIAA Tournament Team as the Lady Falcons placed four scholar-athletes on the squad. She led the Lady Falcons with three home runs in the tournament.