Argos rally to knock off Blazers in NCAA regional final

Tiona Hill’s heroic hit in the bottom of the seventh inning put the exclamation point on a perfect three-game run through the NCAA Division II South 1 Regional.

With the Argonauts down a run with one out and the bases loaded, Hill drove in two runs with a big base hit to help the Argos secure the regional crown with a 7-6 win over Valdosta State Saturday afternoon in Pensacola.

It’s the sixth time this season Hill has tallied a hit with the bases loaded. The win catapults the 10th-ranked Argos (43-13) into the Super Regional this coming week.

Valdosta State took a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh on Brandy Morgan’s second home run of the day, putting the Blazers (38-19) on the cusp of forcing a decisive second game for the title.

But there was no panic among the Argos. They have been in pressure-packed situations before, winning nine one-run games already this season, including 4-3 win over Valdosta State in a semifinal game Friday.

Jacey Castro led off the bottom of the seventh with a base hit and Meghan Toney laid down a bunt and reached on an error. Rhiannon Sassman then came through with a bunt of her own to load the bases.

It was up to Hill to do the rest and she did. Castro scored without any trouble at all. Toney took off for home as well and slid in safely, setting off a celebration on the field.

Saturday’s win gives the Argos their most wins since the 2009 campaign, and their 85 wins over the last two seasons are the most for the program since the 2005-06 campaign.

Castro paced the offense with four hits, including a home run in the first that cut the Blazers’ lead to 2-1. Becca Taylor went the distance on the mound to pick up her 26th win of the year. Navarre grad Callan Taylor came through with one of the Argos’ 11 hits on the day. Valdosta State tallied 11 hits as well.

West Florida will host the super regional Thursday and Friday in a best-of-three series against either sixth-seeded Lee or seventh-seeded North Alabama. Times have yet to be determined. The winner of the super regional advances to the College World Series in Salem, Va.

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