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Published 12:00 am Friday, May 10, 2002

Like last year, Lady Trojans must battle back from loser’s bracket


Sports Editor

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The Troy State Lady Trojans dropped a 3-0 game to Georgia State in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament but fought off elimination with an afternoon 4-2 victory over Jacksonville State.

In the morning game, fifth-seeded Georgia State’s Andrea McNary regulated TSU to the loser’s bracket with a four-hit, seven-inning shutout, her eighth of the season.

"I have to give Georgia State credit," said Troy State head coach Melanie Davis. "They came in excited and pumped. McNary is their stud and a tough pitcher. She had a great game so I have to give them credit."

But Davis feels her team came into the game feeling the weight of their No. 2 seed as well as the pressure of hosting the A-Sun’s season-ending, eight-team tournament. Troy State will host the tournament next year also.

"I knew our kids were coming in tight," said Davis. "They really appreciate the support of our administration for allowing us to host this event for the next two years. It’s nice to be home. They’ve played hard for me all season, because of some personal situations I’ve had with the death of my brother, and I just love them for it. They’ve played hard for their parents and for the university.

But this morning, I think they were trying a little too hard."

The Lady Trojans rebounded against instate rival Jacksonville State, working three pitchers against the Lady Gamecocks to pull out the two-run victory.

Cassie Wilkenson (17-5) got the starting nod, picking up the win in four innings on the mound, but gave way to Christy Curran in the fifth. Kim Unkenholz, who took the loss earlier against Georgia State, came in to earn the save, striking out four of the last five batters she faced.

Going in, Davis felt that she would have to use three pitchers against JSU to get the victory.

"They (JSU) have a power hitting team," she said. "Our assistant coach (Barbara Sherwood) kept saying ‘guys, they are not going to go away’. Cassie was overheating. Quiet honestly, she’s not one to make excuses but we were going three-up, three-down there for awhile early and she had about enough time to come off the field, get a sip of water and go right back out. She was honest with us and she told us she was feeling lightheaded. We went ahead and made the change with Christy in the next inning, but she had a little bad luck, so we brought Kim in to close it."

Bonnie Belin and Curran combined to give the Lady Trojans a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the game. Belin had a single to right field, driving home Erin Flater and Mindy Porep, while Curran singled in Kami Marrott.

"It was extremely important that we score early to help get confidence back with our bats," said Davis. "Bonnie came through with a clutch hit and we were able to get on a roll from there."

Jacksonville State strung two runs together in the third and fourth innings. Renee Haslan and Annie Davis both had RBI singles to cut TSU’s lead to 3-2.

Catcher Tamra Howren came through with an infield single to score Jenny Boyd in the fifth, giving TSU’s pitchers a small cushion to work with.

In the sixth, Jacksonville State loaded the bases, but Unkenholz retired two straight batters to preserve the Lady Trojans’ lead.

Troy State now finds itself with a chance to pull off a repeat performance. Last season in the A-Sun tourney the Lady Trojans dropped their first game but fought back to make the championship contest against Florida Atlantic, falling 1-0.

"We told our players there was nothing we could do (about Thursday’s first loss)," said Davis. "We had put ourselves in that situation. But being a two-seed, the way the bracket may unfold would be favorable for us. We have a good road back to the championship game because we’ll be playing losers. And when you’re playing losers, they have a tendency to be down and come out a little flat."

The Lady Trojans play their first game today at 3 p.m.

Defending champ Florida Atlantic beat Jacksonville State 1-0 and Stetson 1-0 to remain unbeaten as the tourney’s top-seed. Central Florida downed Stetson 3-0.