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Freed-Hardeman upset in first round opener

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Anna Kate Norton prepares to field a ground ball in the tournament-opening defeat. (Photo courtesy of the Bramblett Group)

The lower seeds reigned victorious on the first day of the Henderson bracket of the NAIA Softball World Series Opening Round. First the no. 3 seeded Columbia (Mo.) College Cougars bested no. 2 Madonna (Mich.) University 3-0 before no. 4 Friends (Kan.) University upset top-seeded Freed-Hardeman 3-2 in extra innings.
Friends (31-19) plated two runs in the top of the first inning before being held scoreless until a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning vaulted the Falcons to victory.
After a leadoff walk and hit-by-pitch put two runners on base, Carolyn Dallimore laced a double into right-center field to plate both Aleigha Gale and Meghan Low.
Freed-Hardeman (48-4) had a similar situation with Kennedy Harris drawing a leadoff walk before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. After swiping third, an errant throw allowed Harris to tap home.
Friends’ Laila Spracklen (19-8) and FHU’s Morgan Crawford (18-1) traded scoreless blows until the Lady Lions tied up matters in the bottom of the seventh. After Crawford opened the frame with a walk her pinch runner, Natalie Gilmore, stole second. A sacrifice bunt moved Gilmore to third base, allowing Annalise Jarnagin to sky a sacrifice fly to drive her in.
A single, a walk, and a fielder’s choice in which the lead runner reached her base safely saw the Falcons load the bases with no outs. A fielder’s choice retired the first out at home before Spracklin drove in her own winning run, plating Gale. The damage was mitigated when the Lady Lions had a strong throw to catch a runner taking too big of a turn. FHU would go scoreless in the bottom to seal the upset for Friends.
The Falcons were led by Taylor Witter’s 2-for-3 day at the plate, joining Dallimore in the hit column. FHU’s Cassie Hayes and Caitlin Mitchell’s pinch-hit base knock were the Lady Lions’ output.
The bracket moves into day two with Columbia and Friends squaring off for a spot in the regional final at 11 a.m. CDT. Freed-Hardeman and Madonna will play in the bracket’s first elimination game at 2 p.m. CDT with the winner earning the right to play the loser of the day’s first game to seal the bracket’s final day.

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