PINEVILLE, La. - The seemingly impossible became possible for the Linfield Wildcats Saturday night at the NCAA Division III West Regional.
Linfield, the second-ranked team in Division III, knocked off two Top 10 teams on the same day, surprising No. 8 Mississippi College 4-3 in nine innings, then bouncing No. 4 Louisiana College 8-6 in dramatic fashion in an amazing game that was delayed first by lightning, then by fireworks.
The back-to-back shockers advanced Linfield to the regional final against a red-hot Redlands team. The Wildcats must beat the Bulldogs twice on Sunday to earn the region's berth to next week's Division III championships in Salem, Va.
LINFIELD 8, LOUISIANA COLLEGE 6
Amanda Attleberger homered twice, including the game-winner in the seventh inning, to lift Linfield from a early 5-0 deficit.
Linfield fell in a deep hole in the second inning, when the host Lady Wildcats launched four home runs in the inning, including three by consecutive hitters on Wildcats starter Brittany Miller.
Linfield answered with two runs in the third as Attleberger doubled to score Jenny Marshall and Jena Loop.
Erica Harwell and Attleberger took turns blasting home runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Trailing 6-3 with one out in the seventh, Linfield made its move. Stephanie Rice doubled, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Marshall reached base on an error and scooted for home following a devasting triple by Meredith Brunette. That tied the game at 6 and set the table for Attleberger, who delivered her ninth home run of the season over the center-field wall.
Reliever Samantha Van Noy held Louisiana College to one hit in the bottom of the seventh, and Attleberger made two great snags from first base for the final two outs.
That touched off a wild celebration for the Linfield players and coaches, who rallied together and never gave up hope.
"Down 6-3, I felt like no one on our team gave up," said Attleberger. "None of us had any doubt. We couldn't let our season end."
"This a really neat win for our program," said Wildcats coach Jackson Vaughan. "After we gave up four home runs in one inning, our kids decided that if they had to lose, they would go down fighting."
Attleberger finished 3 for 4 with five RBIs and two runs scored. Rice was 3 for 4, and Marshall and Brunette each contributed a pair of hits as Linfield outhit the hosts 12-10.
Van Noy collected the win to improve to 10-3. Kendra Strahm took over for Miller with no outs in the second, following the barrage of home runs by the Lady Wildcats.
LINFIELD 4, MISSISSIPPI COLLEGE 3, 9 INNINGS
Meredith Brunette drilled a game-winning RBI single through the infield, lifting the Wildcat to the nail-biting victory.
Mississippi College, which earlier set a school record for most wins in one season, finished the year at 39-10.
Linfield put two runs on the board in the first inning as Amanda Attleberger and Erica Hancock each hammeredRBIs singles.
The Choctaws closed to within one run in the third, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Kayla Watkins.
The teams traded runs in the fifth, then Mississippi College pulled even in the sixth when Wildcats relief pitcher Brittany Miller walked Adrienne Ard with the bases loaded.
The game remained deadlocked at 3 until the ninth, when Jenny Marshall singled, stole second, then scored on Brunette's low line drive that penetrated the Choctaws interior defense.
Hancock went 3 for 4 in the game, driving in two runs. Brunette was 3 for 5 and Marshall 2 for 5 with two runs scored.
Kendra Strahm pitched the first 5 2/3 innings before running into trouble. Miller collected the win, her 18th of the season, striking out six Choctaws over the final 3 1/3 innings.
Katie Perry took the loss for MC. Randi Moak, Michelle Cochran and Nikki McClaskey each had a pair of hits.
Both teams slapped 10 hits but the difference was Miller, who came in and held the Choctaws at bay with the game on the line.
'CAT SCRATCH: Mississippi College's nickname, the Choctaws, is in honor of a native tribe of American Indians that settled in central Mississippi in the 1500s. . . Linfield has not suffered consecutive defeats since the 2005 West Regional . . .it was a wild day at the West Regional tournament, which experienced two extra-inning games, and lengthy delays caused by umpire heat exhaustion, lightning strikes and celebratory fireworks. . . the Wildcats spent 10 hours at the field Saturday.
IN OTHER GAMES: Redlands defeated Louisiana College 4-3 in eight innings.