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Hofstra softball team beats USF, 2-1, in 11 innings

Starting pitcher Olivia Galati pitches during the first

Starting pitcher Olivia Galati pitches during the first inning of Hofstra's game against South Florida. (May 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Carrie Pratt

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Hofstra softball team's improbable streaks and season, threatened mightily late into a humid Friday night, are still percolating Saturday morning. And the Pride is one victory away from the College World Series.

No. 9 hitter Michelle Lavagnino's one-out single to center drove in D.J. Slugh in the top of the 11th inning, giving the Pride (42-13) a 2-1 victory over No. 19 South Florida in Game 1 of the best-of-three Tampa Super Regional Friday night.

"I don't know about you,'' veteran Hofstra coach Bill Edwards said, "but that's one of the best games I've ever been involved in.''

The victory was Hofstra's 21st in a row, breaking the program's 19-year-old record. If the Pride gets No. 22 in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game, it will reach the College World Series for the first time. A loss would force a winner-take-all contest immediately after Game 2.

Slugh, who hadn't had a hit since April 11, singled to open the 11th and moved to second on a wild pitch by Bulls lefthanded ace Sara Nevins (29-6). She moved to third on Courtney Crews' sacrifice bunt, setting up Lavagnino's tiebreaking hit on a backdoor curve from Nevins. "She was throwing me all inside that entire count, so I was expecting it,'' Lavagnino said.

Hofstra ace Oliva Galati (34-5) worked a 1-2-3 inning in the 11th for her 32nd consecutive victory. Her final line: four hits, five strikeouts, one walk, 130 pitches.

"Mentally, I didn't feel like I got fatigued,'' said Galati, forced off her midweek throwing routine because of the Pride's hectic travel schedule. "Whether I showed it physically or not, I was not going to let up and I was not going to give up on my teammates.''

What was billed as a duel of two of the East's stingiest pitchers materialized -- sort of. Nevins, 15-1 at home this season, was pulled during a 12-batter stretch in the middle innings but returned with two outs in the sixth and allowed three hits the rest of the way.

Galati, who hasn't lost since March 4, tossed six consecutive no-hit innings during one stretch. She can tie the NCAA Division I single-season record for consecutive victories Saturday.

"She had good stuff,'' Edwards said. "She didn't have her swing-and-miss stuff, but she had good enough stuff to make them hit the routine outs that we were able to get. And it's a credit to her the way she battles all the time.''

Before a USF Softball Stadium-record crowd of 1,561 and an ESPN audience, the Pride rattled Nevins early, sending seven runners to the plate in the first inning and taking a 1-0 lead on Tessa Ziemba's RBI single. Nevins hit two batters, walked one, allowed two hits and was called for an illegal pitch in the inning.

South Florida tied the score in the bottom of the third on consecutive singles followed by consecutive sacrifice bunts. The latter bunt, a suicide squeeze by Jessica Mouse, drove in courtesy runner Courtney Goff.

Junior righthander Lindsey Richardson, who relieved Nevins with two on and nobody out in the third, neutralized a Pride lineup that entered with a .299 team batting average. Richardson retired the first 10 batters she faced and 11 of 12 overall before Nevins returned.

South Florida threatened in the bottom of the seventh, putting a runner on second with one out, but Galati forced a fly to center and fanned pinch hitter Sydney Dinelli to end the threat.

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