Tampa, Fla. - Junior Olivia Galati threw her third complete game in the three-game series and held No. 19 University of South Florida to just two runs on five hits, but Stephanie Medina's fifth-inning sacrifice fly proved to be the difference as the Bulls won, 2-1, in the elimination Game 3 of the Tampa Super Regional on Saturday evening at USF Softball Stadium.
Hofstra, which won Game 1 on Friday to move one game away from the Women's College World Series, lost both Games 2 and 3 on Saturday by a single run. The Pride capped a season in which it qualified for its first-ever super regional with a 42-15 record. USF's Sarah Nevins (31-5) threw 5 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run to send the Bulls (50-12) to the first WCWS in program history.
All three games in the super regional were decided by a single run, including Friday's 2-1 Hofstra win in 11 innings that was the longest super regional contest in NCAA history. The combined attendance for the two-day event was 3,105.
Galati threw 27 innings over two days with Games 1 and 2 going a combined six extra innings. The West Babylon, N.Y. native saw her personal winning streak snapped at 32 with a 2-1, 9-inning loss in Game 2 but still finished the season 34-7 and a 0.95 ERA.
Galati threw every inning in Hofstra's six NCAA Tournament games after also tossing every pitch for Hofstra in a 3-0 run in the Colonial Athletic Association championship tournament and set program records in single-season wins, strikeouts (378) and career strikeouts (1,018) with a season of eligibility remaining.
The series lived up to the hype with both Galati and Nevins entering with sub 1.10-ERAs. Both aces factored in every decision in the six games. Galati, a right-hander, threw 328 total pitches in sweltering heat in the series while Nevins, a left-hander, logged 18 innings with Lindsey Richardson sharing some of the workload.
After USF scored the go-ahead run in the fifth, Hofstra generated a chance to tie the contest. Junior Rachael Senatore started the inning with a leadoff infield single and stole her 12th base in 14 attempts this season. Hofstra then capitalized on a USF mental mistake when, on a Becca Bigler ground out, Senatore appeared to be thrown out at third base for a double play. The umpires award Senatore third base on an obstruction call and Nevins' four-pitch walk to Galati put runners on the corners with one out.
A strikeout and another walk loaded the bases for senior Courtney Crews, who hit a rise-ball hard the other way but directly at Gina Kafales in right to leave the bases loaded.
USF took its first lead in regulation in the entire series in the top of the inning. Kafales's leadoff single up the middle gave the Bulls a base runner. A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch moved the right fielder to third base. Medina then hit a medium-deep fly ball to center that Senatore camped under to catch.
Senatore squeezed the ball for the out and delivered a strong throw home but not in time as Kafales slid in safely for the 2-1 USF lead.
Galati, who threw 110 pitches over nine innings in Game 2 less than 24 hours after tossing a complete-game victory in the Pride's 11-inning win, took the circle again in the third game.
USF took advantage of Galati's heavy workload from the previous games but didn't hit her hard in getting two infield singles sandwiched around a hit batter in the top of the first. Galati then worked Bulls cleanup sixth hitter Kenshrya Jackson deep into the count before walking her on the 10th pitch force in Jessica Mouse with the opening run.
That marked just the sixth run Galati surrendered in 41 2/3 innings in NCAA Tournament play, but the righty escaped further damage with a ground out that stranded the bases loaded.
Bulls third baseman Jessica Mouse made two stellar plays at third base, ending the threat with two runners on base with a line-drive catch in the third and keeping the score tied at 1 with a 5-5-3 double play in the third after Galati and junior Tessa Ziemba started the frame with back-to-back singles.
A walk and an error put two runners on for the Pride in the bottom of the inning to bring up senior third baseman Krista Thorn. With the infield playing a shade beyond the bag, Thorn ripped a line drive that appeared headed to the left side before Mouse made a lunging catch to end the threat and keep USF up, 1-0.
Hofstra sustained pressure in the second with sophomore second baseman Tori Rocha slicing an opposite-field single to left. Rocha moved to second on a groundout and Game 1 hero Michelle Lavagnino's infield single to short put runners on the corners with two outs. USF elected to walk junior Ziemba intentionally to load the bases with the Bulls replacing Nevins with the right-hander Richardson to face the right-handed hitting junior Becca Bigler.
Richardson's second pitch sailed slightly high out of the strike zone but catcher Laura Fountain couldn't catch it for a passed ball, allowing Rocha to score while putting two runners in scoring position. Richardson struck out Bigler to end the threat with the score tied at 1.
Galati and Ziemba ignited Hofstra's offense with back-to-back singles off Richardson to start the third before Mouse completed her double play and a fly out kept the game knotted.
Kourtney Salvarola started the fourth with an opposite-field double that fell just short of the right-centerfield wall in front of the scoreboard. A sacrifice bunt and an infield single put runners on the corners with one out. Galati then bared down to get the strikeout before Ashli Goff hit a hard line drive to right on which Ziemba made a running catch to strand two USF runners in scoring position.
Hofstra finished with a 40-win season for the sixth time in the last eight seasons. In their final collegiate games, Thorn worked a walk, Crews made three putouts behind the plate and Lavagnino went 1-for-3.