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Lady Monsters Win Thrilling Regional Softball Tournament

With game one of the Region I tournament tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Eastern Arizona College turned to the ACCAC player of the year Marina Gusman-Brown to spark a big inning for the Monsters on Friday. She came through with her 21st home run of the year to center field, putting Eastern up 2-1. Three batters later, Tiffany Godfrey hit a lazy pop fly to second. It looked like the end of the inning until three Central players converged on the ball at the same time and allowed the ball to fall between them, putting Godfrey on first base and extending the inning. After a walk and a single, Monsters head coach Kate McCluskey, the ACCAC coach of the year, made a bold move and pinch hit Liz McBride.

McBride hit the first pitch she saw to deep right center and cleared the bases on a grand slam. “That is her job,” McCluskey said. “We have used her in that role all year and she has come through. “We opened her up against a pitcher that hasn’t seen her all game, and she hit the first pitch for a grand slam.” “She threw the ball right down the middle, and the moment I hit it, I knew it was gone,” McBride said. “It felt great to be able to come in and help the team.”

Central never recovered from the big blast. They loaded the bases in the fifth and sixth innings but only managed to score a couple of runs, as Tiffany Garafano was able to overcome and pitch out of both jams and complete the game. Garafano picked up her 21st win of the season, and Gusman-Brown was 2-4 with a homer.

In a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the championship game Saturday, Godfrey had two big hits that brought the Monsters back in dramatic fashion. First down by four in the bottom of the sixth inning with a runner on second, Godfrey hit a towering home run to center field to bring EAC back to within two. Immediately following Godfrey’s home run, Jackie Tema hit one of her own that put EAC back to within one run of Central Arizona. Noe Esperas threw her third consecutive inning of scoreless relief to keep the game close. Eastern quickly went back to work in the bottom half of the inning on completing the comeback victory.

Ashley Chalifoux kept the momentum going with a leadoff single, followed by Brianna Blair’s key sacrifice bunt that put Chalifoux on second. Cen-tral then intentionally walked Gusman-Brown.

With runners on first and second, Kaci Lewis grounded out to first, which moved the runners to second and third. Then came Godfrey, who delivered her second clutch hit of the series, a walk-off two-run double that made EAC the Region I tournament champions. She finished the day 2-4 with a homer and three RBIs. “I was looking for an outside pitch with runners on second and third and finally got one and hit it right where I wanted to,” Godfrey said.

“This was a team of destiny, and I never doubted (our players),” McCluskey said. When asked to sum up this team and season, McCluskey could only think of one word — driven. Being driven is exactly what it took for this team to overcome a five-run deficit.

Outfielder Cheynah Farley went 3-4 with a homer in the victory. Eastern’s bats proved to be the difference in this tournament. By tournament end, EAC had scored 21 runs on 23 hits and had hit six home runs (four in game two) in two games.

Eastern will compete in the NJCAA National Championship Tournament in Plant City, Fla. on May 17-19. They enter the tournament ranked 3rd in the nation.

Story written by Arjay Gamble

Contributing Writer, Eastern Arizona Courier