CF downs No. 1 Arizona Western, Szymanowski hits 20th HR

CF downs No. 1 Arizona Western, Szymanowski hits 20th HR

ST. GEORGEUTAH- The College of Central Florida softball team made a major statement in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA National Tournament on Thursday evening.

The Patriots rolled past No. 1 ranked Arizona Western 6-0 in a winner's bracket contest.

"I like the way we are playing right now and the girls are playing with a lot of confidence," said CF coach Kevin Fagan. "They've seen the competition here and they know that we are as good as anyone here or better. I like our chances."

With the win, No. 8 CF (45-13) advances to game three and will play Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. EST against No. 4 Chattanooga (Tenn.) State, an 11-4 winner over No. 12 North Central Texas.

"We know that we will have our hands full," said Fagan. "Chattanooga has been smashing people so far and historically has been tough, but I really like what we are doing."

If the Patriots win Friday, they would play for a chance to advance to the championship in the semifinals at 9:30 p.m. A loss would drop CF into the loser's bracket for a game on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the double-elimination event.

It was the second win for the Patriots over a team ranked No. 1 in the nation over the past two and a half weeks.

CF knocked off then-No. 1 Indian River State in the Atlantic District finals and continued its run by knocking off Arizona Western (49-8) for its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the country in school history.

In the circle, Autumn Hanners (7-4) went the distance in a complete game three-hitter.

"She worked ahead and really hit her spots," said Fagan. "She was real accurate and just went out and pitched real well for us."

Hanners improved to 2-0 in the tournament and has now thrown 12 scoreless innings and allowed just four hits. The freshman from Winter Park Lake Howell High School hasn't allowed a run in 21 1/3 consecutive innings over her last four outings. 

 Hanners became just the second pitcher to shut out the Matadors this season and finished with her ninth complete game of the season. She walked three and struck out one in keeping the Matadors off the scoreboard.

Entering the game, Arizona Western had pounded 79 home runs and hit .390 as a team, but with the lights shining their brightest, failed to connect.

"We had a chance to chart them in their first game when they went to extra innings in their opener," Fagan said. "We knew how to beat them as hitters and they really do a good job of making adjustments, but Autumn was on for us."

The Patriots, though, made things look easy in the win.

CF jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, as it took advantage of everything it was given by Arizona Western and saw one of its top hitters during the regular season emerge once again at nationals.

Taylor Morrow's two-run single in the first followed Jordan Lane's run-scoring fielder's choice for the Patriots. After going 5-for-18 in the state tournament, Morrow, CF's second-leading hitter during the regular season, picked up her third hit in her first four at-bats in the national event to give the Patriots some huge early momentum.

"We were worried about (Morrow) coming into the tournament because she was a little down, but she has come out here and really hit the ball well," said Fagan. "She's found her stroke again and that is a key for us."

Cheyenne Blaha started off the frame with a walk and Linsday O'Steen and Amy Szymanowski followed with a single and walk respectively. After Lane drove in Blaha, Morrow would come up two batters later with the first big hit of the game for the Patriots.

The Patriots upped their edge to 5-0 with two more runs in the second and chased opposing starter Ashlee Rex (24-4) in the second inning.

Caylee Underwood, who hit the go-ahead solo homer in CF's 4-3 win over Lake Land (Ill.), came up with a one-out single and scored on a double by Blaha. Blaha then scored on a passed ball to round out the scoring.

Szymanowksi extended her single season and career school records for home runs to 20 for the season and 36 for her career with a solo shot in the fifth to push the Patriots' edge to 6-0. With the homer, Szymanowski is now one home run from trying the all-time state career home run record. 

Monique Marier of Lake City and Katie Harrison of Chipola currently share the career homer record with 37.

Blaha (1-for-3, two runs scored, RBI), O'Steen (2-for-3, run scored), Szymanowski (1-for-2, two runs scored, RBI), Lane (RBI), Morrow (1-for-3, two RBI) and Underwood (1-for-2, run scored) led the way for CF at the plate.

For the national tournament, Morrow and O'Steen are both 3-for-6 at the plate to pace the Patriots. Morrow's three RBI are tops at nationals for CF. O'Steen is now 15-for-28 at the plate in the postseason with six runs scored.

Szymanowski has now reached base in 15-of-24 plate appearances in the postseason, including 3-of-6 trips in the national tournament. She has drawn seven walks in the postseason.

Blaha has reached base in 12-of-24 times in the postseason and has scored at least one run in six of CF's seven games, including both national tournament contests.

Underwood, who was 2-for-14 in the state tournament, has equaled her number of hits already with her effort in the national tournament and scored two runs to up her postseason total to five.

Meanwhile, Lane has driven in runs in both of CF's games in the national tournament and has six RBI during postseason play.