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Simon Fraser University of Canada players and coaches discuss game strategy between innings in their contest with Lee at the NAIA national championship softball tournament at Wilson Morgan Park on Friday.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Simon Fraser University of Canada players and coaches discuss game strategy between innings in their contest with Lee at the NAIA national championship softball tournament at Wilson Morgan Park on Friday.

Saved by the Bell
Simon Fraser's late rally sends fourth-ranked team to win

By Mark Edwards
medwards@decaturdaily.com 340-2461

One of the biggest hits of the first day of the NAIA softball championships came from one of the coldest hitters.

Simon Fraser's Carolyn Bell delivered a two-out, game-tying double in the bottom of the last inning against seventh-ranked Lee (Tenn.). One batter later, Bell scored on Danielle Kerluke's infield single, giving No. 4 Simon Fraser of Canada a 9-8 win at Wilson Morgan Park.

Until her big hit, Bell had one single in seven at-bats in the Clan's two pool-play games Friday, a difference from the regular season when she hit .375.

"It was a hard day until then," Bell said minutes after the win. "I was thinking too much, but I settled down, tracked the ball and hit it.

"I needed to do that for the team, and I'm happy to do it for the team."

Pool play continues Saturday. Admission is $25 for a tournament pass and $7 for a one-day pass.

Bell paced a rally in which Simon Fraser scored four times to came back from an 8-5 deficit in the last inning.

The win gave some breathing room to the Clan, which has finished in the top four the last nine years and won NAIA championships in 1999, 2003 and '05.

Simon Fraser (22-2) is in the same pool as No. 2 Oklahoma City (44-13), a seven-time former champion which won both of its pool-play games Friday. Simon Fraser also went 2-0 with an 11-1 win over Columbia (Mo.) earlier Friday.

Considering that only two of the five teams from each pool move on to the start of double-elimination play Monday, a loss to Lee would've put Simon Fraser practically in a must-win situation when it faces OCUon Saturday.

But after the rally to beat Lee, Simon Fraser coach Mike Renney and his players still counted themselves fortunate to avoid losing.

"To be honest, we didn't deserve to win," Renney said after his team pounded out 11 hits but made three errors in the field.

"In the bottom of the seventh, I said that it's our bat, we still have a chance, make of it what you can. When you're down two runs, it's always reachable, but three runs ... that's tough."

Lee led 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning when Simon Fraser scored three times. However, Lee responded with a two-run homer from JaAndrea Hinton in the top of the sixth for a 6-5 lead. Lee added two more runs in the seventh to set up Simon Fraser's comeback.

This kind of offense isn't unusual for Simon Fraser. Of the 20 teams in the NAIA tournament, the Clan leads all of them in batting average (.423), runs per game (10.3) and home runs per game (1.9).

No other team is close to that home run rate, and Simon Fraser benefited from the long ball Friday against Lee. Melanie Matthews slugged a two-run shot in the third inning, and Becky Hartley set up Bell's big moment by hitting a two-run homer in the seventh to cut Lee's lead to 8-7.

As for Lee, the stunned team lost the same way in its second game of the day when it fell to Vanguard (Calif.) 5-4 after leading 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.

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