April 21, 2012

Lady Rams Claim 2012 CIAA Softball Champion with 3-0 Win Over Virginia State

ETTRICK, Va. – Just give her the ball, and Brittany Lane will do the rest. After shouldering a staggering workload on Friday, Winston-Salem State ace Brittany Lane fired a two-hit shutout to force a decisive game in the championship round before coming back with a three-inning save in Game 2 to lift the Lady Rams to their second straight CIAA Softball Championship on Saturday.

Winston-Salem State, which fell to the losers' bracket on the tournament's opening day on Thursday, needed two wins to capture the league title, and did so by winning 1-0 and 3-0 on Saturday, spoiling Virginia State's hopes of securing the championship on its home field.

Lane, who earned the win after working the complete game in a 13-inning classic against Chowan on Friday, picked up two wins and a save after pitching 20 of Winston-Salem State's 27 innings over three games on Friday. Named the Tournament MVP, Lane finished the weekend with four wins and two saves.

"I did it for my teammates," Lane said of the workload. "It's not hard to do when you're working for your teammates. I knew they always had my back, and that is all that matters to me.

"I never got tired," Lane added in a near-whisper, losing only her voice in tournament play. "We have a great training staff, and they made sure I was OK."

She was better than OK.

Lane was just as spectacular in the championship round, and did it against the pitcher who entered the game as the league's hottest hurler in the tournament.

In a game befitting a matchup between the league's two aces, Lane remained nearly unhittable in Winston-Salem State's 1-0 win to force a decisive second game in the championship round.

After working out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the first inning, she settled in and mowed down the Lady Trojans' lineup, retiring 15 of the next 16 batters in order, and 21 of 23 to finish the game. Lane did not allow a Virginia State runner to reach second base after the first inning.

Virginia State ace Jessica Mattia remained sharp, and extended her scoreless inning streak at the CIAA Tournament to 23 innings before a throwing error by Lady Trojans first baseman Caitlin Underwood allowed Shantel Haskins to cross home with the game's only run with two outs in the top of the third inning.

The patient Lady Rams coaxed four walks out of Mattia (20-17), who finished her fourth tournament game without allowing an earned run, having led Virginia State to three straight 1-0 wins in tournament play entering Saturday's first game. She allowed five hits and struck out three.

But Lane was masterful, retiring 11 straight in one stretch to make up for the lack of production against Mattia. Winston-Salem State was just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding seven.

Yasmin Lee got the start for Winston-Salem State in the second game, and was effective in four innings, preserving the Lady Rams' 1-0 lead after working out of a jam in the top of the fourth inning thanks to tremendous play from shortstop Brittany Rich.

Lee gave way to Lane to start the fifth, and Lane promptly got out of her own jam in the fifth when Rich snared a line drive off the bat of Mattia and fired to second in time to double off the runner and end the threat.

Winston-Salem State, which had scored the first earned run given up by Mattia in 29 tournament innings, on junior infielder Britney Cato's sacrifice fly in the third, tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The big blow came on Nikki Lynch's run-scoring double.

That was more than enough for Lane, who after fanning the side in the sixth, closed the game out and clinched the CIAA championship for the Rams with a scoreless seventh.

"Her discipline, her dedication, being a leader for her team and her passion for the game as her fighting spirit – that's what kept her going out there game after game," Winston-Salem State coach LaTaya Hillard-Gray said.

Lane, Lynch, Rich, Haskins, Francesca Edgerton and Tanaya Pettus were named to the All-Tournament team from Winston-Salem State while Mattia and Sharron Lipford from Virginia State were honored. Rounding out the All-Tournament was Alora Lincoln (Chowan), Kayla Brady (Chowan), Kiara Washington (Bowie State) and Cara Nance (Bowie State).

With the title, the Lady Rams earn an automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament. Announcements of seeding and opponents will be made on a later date. For more information on Lady Rams softball, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.