Page homers in dramatic fashion, LaTech drops heartbreaker

May 21, 2017

Taria Page softball

Taria Page

One moment she was down to her final strike. The next moment Anchorage’s Taria Page was rounding the bases it what could be the greatest individual moment in Alaska softball history.

The Louisiana Tech’s sophomore slugger crushed a game-tying, pinch-hit home run with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning against No. 1 Minnesota at the NCAA Tournament.

In extra innings, however, the top-ranked Gophers capitalized to score three runs in the ninth inning and win, 5-2, in an elimination game at the Tuscaloosa Regional in Alabama.

With her team trailing 2-1 and down to its final strike, Page sent a full-count pitch from Minnesota All-American pitcher Sara Groenewegen deep over the right-field wall to tie the game at 2-2. It was only the seventh home run surrendered by Groenewegen in more than 200 innings this year, and it was the fifth for Page.

“I slowed the game down like people say to,” Page told the school’s website, referring to her at-bat. “The game seemed like it almost stopped. I saw the ball, but when the ball came across the plate, after that my mind went blank. Next thing I knew I was rounding first and I saw everyone at home plate. I really did blank out for a good three seconds.”

For Page, it was her second straight pinch-hit RBI base hit at the College Softball World Series. She had a run-scoring single in Saturday’s win over Albany.

LaTech coach Mark Montgomery said it was tough to hold a power hitter like Page out of the starting lineup, but his idea to save her for a big moment paid off big time.

“You aren’t going to go down with one of your best at bats not getting a chance to hit,” he told the school’s website. “When it became game on-the-line, last at bat potential, it’s now or nothing. Did I see a home run? No. But is she someone who can hit a home run? Absolutely. We were trying to save her for the moment when we had two or three runners on, but we never got that chance.

“You don’t witness our everyday practices. That kid is one of the phenomenal hitters in the nation. She is hitting with a bulging disc in her back, a herniated disc. We have done multiple things just to make it through the season. When she is healthy, that kid is 25 or 30 home run kid and I’m not playing. She has been slowed down by that injury. We try to limit what she does in a [designated hitter] role.”