Lady Rams come back to win title

ASU softball coach Robert Skinner.

ASU softball coach Robert Skinner.

HAMPTON — In one of the most remarkable comebacks of this or any other season, the Albany State Lady Rams softball team pulled off one small miracle after another to win the conference title on Sunday at Hampton, where ASU came back from oblivion to win it all with back-to-back wins against Miles in the championship.

“We haven’t won it since 2011,’’ said an elated ASU coach Robert Skinner, after watching his Lady Rams beat Miles, 16-9, in the final game on Sunday. “This is the best team I’ve had in a long time. I’ve never had a team hit like this team. We have nine players in our lineup who can hit home runs.’’

They love the long ball, and they hit them far and often.

ASU hit 36 homers in eight games in the tournament, including nine on Sunday when every game was do-or-die.

They’re alive and kicking and headed to the regionals in three weeks. Skinner said he didn’t know where the regionals would be played, but he knew his team would be there. There’s no doubt they will show up with big bats and a home run trot for the ages.

Chaconna Marks and Sierra Gaines hit four home runs each in the final two games against Miles, and they both homered in ASU’s miracle seventh inning in their first game against Miles — an inning no one at Albany State will soon forget.

The Lady Rams, who lost the first game of the tournament on Thursday, had to win seven times, including three must-win games on Saturday and three more sudden-death showdowns on Sunday.

They beat Stillman, 1-0, to keep their season alive and then faced Miles for the title, needing to win twice. In Game 1, their season came down to their final at-bat.

ASU was trailing 9-5 going into the top of the seventh in the first game against Miles when the Lady Rams erupted for a 10-run inning. Gaines went deep for a three-run homer and Marks added a solo shot to ignite the rally.

Alexa Lopez, who pitched a complete game shutout to beat Stillman in the first game on Sunday, tossed two innings in relief to get the win in the critical first game against Miles. She slammed the door in the seventh and ASU won 15-9 to force a winner-take-all final.

Gaines and Marks both hit two more home runs each and the Lady Rams never trailed in a 16-9 win that nailed down the title. Lopez went the distance in the third game to win her third game of the day.

“We went into the day real confident,’’ Skinner said. “We had to win three games on Saturday and three more games on Sunday, but we felt confident during the tournament. There was never a doubt in my mind what we were going to do.’’