KINGSPORT, Tenn. --
Union senior pitcher Falon Catalano
hurled a complete game shutout to pace the sixth-seeded Lady Bulldogs to a thrilling 1-0 victory over third-seed Milligan in the first round of the 2011 AAC Softball Tournament at Domtar Park.
With the win, Union improved to 22-26 on the year and advance to the winner's bracket of the tournament where they will face Montreat tomorrow afternoon at 5 p.m. Milligan fell to 28-18 with the defeat and will play Bryan tomorrow afternoon in the losers bracket.
Going into the game, the starting pitching match-up of two of the best starters in the AAC in Catalano and Milligan's Sidney Burns was the main storyline. Both did not disappoint, as they confused both lineups throughout most of the afternoon.
Union, however, seemed to have more chances early on, as they stranded two runners on base in the second and another run on in the third.
In the fifth inning and with the game still scoreless, Burns looked to complete another three up, three down half frame against the Union offense. With Whitley Cochran
at the plate with two outs, she grounded a ball to third base, but the relay throw over to first was bobbled by the Lady Buffalo first baseman, enabling Cochran to reach on an error. Next up, Hillary Leftrick
forced a walk, moving Cochran over to second, and setting the stage for a memorable at bat for Abby Sears
In the AB, Sears faced 10 pitches, fouling off seven in a row at one point to stay alive. On that 10th pitch, Sears roped an RBI single to left, scoring Cochran from second, and giving the Lady Bulldogs the one-run lead.
The lead, though slim, was more than enough for Catalano to work with, although she did wiggle out of a serious jam in the sixth. With two on and two outs, Catalano forced a Milligan batter to fly out to left to stomp out the threat. In the seventh, the Lady Buffaloes went down in order, as Union took the one-run thriller to move onto the winner's bracket of the tournament.
Overall, Catalano (9-5) was the winner, shutting out Milligan for the second time in 2011 after allowing just two hits, while fanning six. At the plate, Union only notched five hits on the day, four of which came from Sears (2-for-3, RBI) and Alissa Hampton
(2-for-3). Morgan Brown
registered the other hit on the afternoon for the Lady Bulldogs.
With the win, Union now faces second-seed Montreat tomorrow, with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. The Lady Cavaliers won their first round contest over Bryan, 3-0, and swept the regular season DH between the two schools back on Apr. 17.