Penn State Altoona softball beat Pitt-Bradford 8-1 on May 5 at Stewart Athletic Field to win its first Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championship.
The win gives the Lady Lions their first conference title in 13 years as a varsity sport at the campus. The team earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament, which begins this Thursday, May 9.
Penn State Altoona entered the year as the preseason favorites to win the AMCC, then went on to clinch the first seed in the tournament by finishing the regular season with a league-best 14-4 record.
A pair of come-from-behind wins in the tournament helped the Lady Lions reach Sunday's title game. The squad rallied to defeat Mount Aloysius College 7-5 on Friday, then earned a 3-2 walkoff victory over D'Youville College on Saturday.
After Friday and Saturday's dramatic wins, Sunday's game had a different feel when Penn State Altoona jumped out to a big lead in the third inning.
Alamaria Miller (Muncy, Pa./Muncy) scored on a fielding error by Pitt-Bradford to break a scoreless tie. One batter later, Brittany Smith (Bellefonte, Pa./Bellefonte) made it 2-0 with her RBI single to center. Kelly Chambers (Snow Shoe, Pa./Bald Eagle) followed by driving in two more runs with a triple to right field, then came home to score on a throwing error. Christina Stathes (Bellefonte, Pa./Bellefonte) capped off the scoring in the inning with an RBI single that put the Lady Lions up 6-0.
Penn State Altoona added to its lead in the fourth. Lauren Bove (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) scored on a wild pitch before Chambers' groundout plated another run, making it 8-0.
Pitt-Bradford avoided a run rule-shortened game when they scored in the top of the fifth inning on Jamie Winzeler's two-out RBI single to left-center.
But Lady Lions' starting pitcher Jackie Smith (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Hollidaysburg) remained in control for the remainder of the game, keeping the Lady Panthers off the scoreboard over the final two innings. Smith picked up her 11th win of the season, pitching all seven innings and allowing one earned run on five hits and just one walk. She struck out three batters.
Chambers finished the day with a game-high three RBIs.
Bove had a 2-for-3 performance at the plate and scored two runs. Brittany Smith also finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Penn State Altoona softball will advance to the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament for the first time in program history. They face No. 1 ranked Salisbury University on Thursday in the first game of the Salem Region bracket, hosted by Roanoke College in Salem, Va.