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Hofstra softball team advances to NCAA regional final

Hofstra University pitcher Olivia Galati delivers to the

Hofstra University pitcher Olivia Galati delivers to the plate in the top of the third inning. (May 10, 2012) Credit: James Escher

LOS ANGELES -- Olivia Galati delivered another dominant performance in the circle and her teammates made the plays behind her as Hofstra University advanced to the championship round of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional softball playoffs with a 2-0 victory over San Diego State Saturday afternoon at UCLA's Easton Stadium.

It was the 19th straight win for the Pride (40-13), which has won its first two games in the double-elimination tournament and needs one more victory to advance to the Super Regionals. Hofstra will play the San Diego State-Florida State winner in the championship round Sunday at noon. Should the Pride lose the first game, a decisive second game against the same opponent will follow.

"This was a tremendous pitching performance by both teams," Hofstra coach Bill Edwards said. "To see Olivia do what she did against another potent lineup and to see us making the routine plays that have to be made was very gratifying."

Galati allowed only three base runners -- a leadoff single in the first inning, a one-out double in the fifth and a leadoff walk in the seventh. She improved to 32-5 and recorded her NCAA-leading 17th shutout and her 36th complete game. Staked to an early lead, the West Babylon native finished with 12 strikeouts and kept San Diego State hitters off balance all game.

"It was great that we scored early and to see our defense play the way they have gives me even more confidence," said Galati, a junior. "You know if you make a mistake they have your back 100 percent."

After breaking the school record with her 14 strikeouts in Friday's 7-2 victory over UCLA, Galati picked up right where she left off, fanning eight of the first nine batters she faced Saturday. She also retired 13 Aztecs in a row over five innings. Galati has 357 strikeouts this season and has already surpassed the school single-season mark of 348, which she set last year.

"I treat every lineup I face the same and every inning the same," said Galati, who lowered her earned run average to 0.91 -- the best in NCAA Division I this season. "From the first inning to the seventh I treat it like it's a zero-zero game because a hit here and a walk there can turn a two-run lead into a one-run deficit really fast."

The Pride gave Galati all the offensive support she would need in the second inning. Tessa Ziemba and Krista Thorn hit back-to-back singles and Erin Trippi was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. After Courtney Crews popped out to second, second baseman Tori Rocha hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Ziemba from third. When Trippi tagged and broke for second, Aztecs shortstop Hayley Miles' throw got away and the error allowed Thorn to score a crucial insurance run.

"In that situation with the bases loaded she has nowhere to put me," Rocha said of her game-winning RBI. "So I was just looking for my pitch."

Rocha also snared a hard ground ball between first and second in time to throw out Aztecs designated player Lorena Klopp for the second out of the seventh. San Diego State's Kristin May swung through a changeup for strike three, but Crews couldn't catch the ball cleanly and had to throw to Nicole Osovski at first for the final out.

"There are times in a game where you're called on to make a tough play," Rocha said. "You have to be ready on every pitch because if you're not, the ball's going to find you."

The Pride finds itself one win away from a spot in the Super Regionals and Edwards stressed that how his team plays is more important than who it plays.

"I don't pay attention to how many games we've won or anything like that," he said. "It's all about the next one."

Asked if his ace would pitch both games Sunday, if necessary, Edwards grinned and said: "We're riding Secretariat all the way, baby."

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