ORLANDO, FLA. - Jessica Johnson has hit over 20 home runs in her two years as a Pirate, but she belted the biggest shot of her career, a bomb over the left foulpole in the top of the 12th, to boost the East Carolina softball team to the title game of the Conference USA Softball Championship presented by Coca-Cola. The 1-0 victory was the second straight win of that score and the second-consecutive extra-inning game in this championship for the Pirates.
Charina Sumner led off the game with an infield single but was caught stealing to end the inning after UCF starter Allison Kime induced a bunt popup from Kaui Tom and a strikeout from Jessica Johnson. The Golden Knights put their first runner on base in the second inning when Breane Javier singled down the left field line. ECU starter Toni Paisley pitched out of the jam, however, getting the next two batters to pop up and striking out Cat Snapp to end the inning.
The Pirates had a golden opportunity to go on top in the third when with two outs, Christina Merrida reached on an error by the shortstop. Sumner then singled to left and advanced to second on the throw while Merrida reached third. But Kaui Tom would strike out to end the threat. Neither team would threaten again through the regulation seven innings.
The game remained scoreless through ten innings but UCF positioned itself to win the game in the 11th when Lindsey Dean reached second an error by Joyce Roodenburg and was sacrificed to third by Morgan Bullard. However, ECU starter Toni Paisley induced a pop up from Amber Lamb, sending the game to the 12th.
Just when it looked as if the game would run into the beginning of the scheduled championship game, Johnson stepped up with one out and smashed her team and conference-leading 17th home run to provide the final 1-0 margin.
Paisley earned her second win and shutout of the conference tournament, throwing a career high 12 innings while striking out 10. The C-USA Softball Freshman-of-the-Year has now posted ten shutouts on the season and her record now stands at a stellar 21-5.
The Pirates will now face the top-seeded Houston Cougars in the title game of the championship at 3:30 p.m. The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Championship.
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