SALEM, Va. - Armstrong Atlantic State University junior left fielder Andrea Dalton launched a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to keep the No. 4-ranked Pirates alive at the NCAA DII Softball Championships on Saturday afternoon with a 7-5 nine-inning win over No. 3-ranked and defending DII national champion Valdosta State at the James I. Moyer Complex in Salem, Va.
The Pirates (43-9-1) advance to another elimination game on Saturday, tentatively scheduled for 5:45 p.m. against No. 5 Humboldt State. Valdosta State sees its season come to a close with a 46-13 record.
The Dalton home run snapped a 5-5 tie as Valdosta State rallied for a single run in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the game into extras. A Hannah Strickland RBI double in the 7th tied up the game and VSU had the bases loaded with one out, but Megan Barnwell struck out Shelby Altman and got Ashley Steinhilber to ground out to short.
Neither team scored in the eighth, and in the top of the ninth, Shelby Duff singled with one out. Peyton Roth reached on a fielder's choice, erasing Duff, then Dalton followed with her eighth home run of the season to put the Pirates ahead. It was the sixth straight game in this postseason in which Armstrong has hit a home run.
In the bottom of the ninth, Barnwell set down the Blazers in order, getting Courtney Albritton to fly out to right field for the final out and Armstrong's first win in the DII Softball Championships.
The Pirates started off the game well, getting a two-run single from Dalton to left field in the top of the first inning for a quick 2-0 lead, but Valdosta State responded with three runs in the bottom of the first inning on a two-run RBI single by Steinhilber and an RBI single by Hamlin.
Duff answered with an RBI double in the top of the second inning to tie the game up at 3-3. It was Duff's 17th double of the season, tying the Armstrong single-season record.
Duff and Mercer delivered RBI singles in the top of the fourth inning to put the Pirates back on top, 5-3, leading to the ninth-inning dramatics for the Blazers.
Barnwell (27-5) pitched a complete-game win for the Pirates, hurling all nine innings and giving up eight hits and five runs, walking three while striking out five. It was her 86th win as a Pirate, tying the all-time career wins record at Armstrong, set by Annie Sells (1999-2002).
Valdosta State reliever Hanna Lythberg (16-6) took the loss for the Blazers, giving up three hits and two runs in five innings of work, walking two while striking out two.
Dalton went 3-for-5 with four RBIs to pace the Pirates at the plate, while Duff went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Valdosta State was led by Steinhilber's 2-for-4 day with two RBIs.