TAMPA, Fla. -- After a searing six-hour, 16-inning day, Hofstra softball coach Bill Edwards assembled his crestfallen players for a sit-down on the leftfield grass at USF Softball Stadium.
The conversation's tearful gist: "How much I love 'em," Edwards said, his 67-year-old eyes welling.
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A valiant 198-pitch day by junior ace Olivia Galati couldn't offset an afternoon bereft of timely hits. A nine-inning, 2-1 loss in Game 2 was followed by a 2-1 loss in Game 3. In those 16 innings, Galati allowed 11 hits. Hofstra left 19 on base.
"If we could've gotten one key hit," said Edwards, whose team entered the day on a 21-game winning streak after capturing Game 1, 2-1 in 11 innings, on Friday night. "We were leaving runners on second and third, bases loaded, time and time again."
Which is to say they couldn't muster quite enough to support Galati, who totaled 328 pitches in a 25-hour span while Bulls coach Ken Eriksen consistently interchanged his two top pitchers. Edwards said of Galati, "We are where we are because of Secretariat over here."
Galati tossed a two-hitter through the first eight innings Saturday before surrendering a leadoff single in the ninth to Stephanie Medina. Pinch runner Courtney Goff moved to second on Janine Richardson's sacrifice bunt and Galati hit Kourtney Salvarola with a pitch. Kenshyra Jackson's single to center made it 1-0 and sent Salvarola to third, setting up a long sacrifice fly to right by Laura Fountain for what proved to be the winning run.
Hofstra loaded the bases against Bulls lefthander Sara Nevins with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and Becca Bigler's infield single drove in Courtney Crews. But Nevins retired Galati on a bases-loaded grounder to short to end the game.
Galati was listed only as the designated player in the Game 2 lineup but took the circle immediately. She had a shaky first, hitting the second batter and allowing two singles before issuing a bases-loaded walk to Jackson.
"In the second inning, I went to Courtney Crews and I said, 'Court, what do you think?' " Edwards said of his catcher. "Court said, 'She's still got it, she's still there.' "
The Pride tied it at 1-1 in the second when Tori Rocha, who had singled with one out, scored on a two-out passed ball.
USF scored the deciding run in the fifth when Gina Kafalas led off with a single and scored on high school teammate Medina's sacrifice fly. Medina said of Hofstra, "My respect for them is, without a doubt, unbelievable."
Hofstra, the home team, managed only one hit the rest of the way. A 1-2-3 seventh ended its greatest season ever. And the greatest season in Edwards' coaching life.
"Tops right here,'' he said. "I've coached for 44 years, championship games all over the place. Championship games in hockey, football, softball. Tops right here.''