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NCAA Regional Digest: Sunday, May 23

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NORMANLOS ANGELESTUSCALOOSAGAINESVILLESTILLWATER • FAYETTEVILLEBATON ROUGECOLUMBIATALLAHASSEETUCSON • AUSTINATHENSLEXINGTONKNOXVILLETEMPE • SEATTLE

Norman Regional

Results: No. 1 Oklahoma 24, Wichita State 7

Sunday Star: Grace Lyons, SS, Oklahoma 

Lyons hit a home run to nearly dead center when she didn’t even finish her swing. That about summed up the Sooners when they broke NCAA regional records for both a single game (24) and a regional (50). Sunday’s game was out of reach by the time Lyons hit her aforementioned second home run that slipped over the fence in center, but she also contributed an RBI double to the game-defining eight-run rally in the second inning and a home run in the third inning. She finished 3-for-6 with five RBIs and 10 total bases. 

Highlight: Well, there was that top of the second inning. Patty Gasso started Olivia Rains, a sophomore who hasn’t thrown more than two innings in an outing all season. She ran into immediate trouble against a lineup that more than prove its worth throughout the weekend, and the Sooners trailed by four runs after an inning. That was their largest deficit of the season. They trailed Houston by three runs after the first inning back in February and promptly scored five runs in the top of the second inning. They did that again Sunday but didn’t stop at five. Remarkably, the eight-run second inning wasn’t even their most prolific inning.

“Four runs in the first is something i knew we could come back from,” Gasso said of being comfortable taking a risk with her starter. 

Regional MVP: Tiare Jennings, 2B, Oklahoma 

How do you not give it to Nicole Mendes, the influential veteran leader who set a program postseason record with seven RBIs in the opening game and then drove in the first two runs of the comeback Sunday? Or Kinzie Hansen? Or Lynnsie Elam? Well, because the freshman who hit a home run in her first college at-bat back in February proceeded to hit .667 in her first NCAA regional. Jennings capped that monster weekend with the home run Sunday that pushed the game into run-rule range. She totaled eight RBIs and six runs. 

Up Next: No. 1 Oklahoma hosts No. 16 Washington


Los Angeles Regional

Results: UCLA 2 Minnesota 1 

Sunday Star: Kinsley Washington 

Minnesota jumped out to an early 1-0 lead putting pressure on the Bruins early in the contest. Junior Kinsley Washington managed to do it again with a two-out two-run single in the top of the inning to put UCLA on top. 

Regional MVP: Rachel Garcia 

With an extra inning victory on Saturday, including a game-tying single on the seventh, Rachel Garcia put on quite a show in Westwood. The two-way player picked up two wins in the circle beating Fresno State in extra innings and Minnesota in 5 1/3 innings of shutout relief. She punched out 18 batters over the weekend and also went  4-for-8 with 3 RBIs and four walks. 

Up Next: No. 2 UCLA hosts Virginia Tech in Los Angeles.


Tuscaloosa Regional

Regional Champion: No. 3 Alabama 

Results: No. 3 Alabama 5, Clemson 0

Sunday Star: Montana Fouts, P, Alabama

One of the surest bets in college softball lately is Fouts reaching double-digit strikeouts whenever she starts. The junior right-hander threw a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and two walks to improve to 24-3. It came one day after Fouts had a career-high tying 16 strikeouts in a four-hit shutout against Clemson. Fouts has 19 games of 10+ strikeouts this season, 13 of which have come against ranked teams.

Highlight: Taylor Clark continues to be one of the best stories of the season for the Tide. Injuries opened the door for the gradate senior to play, and she has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Clark hit a three-run home run to center field in the second inning to give Alabama a 4-0 lead. It was Clark’s second home run of the season. The Tide stretched its win streak to 16 games and reached the Super Regional for the 16th time – the only program to make every Super Regional since the format was implemented in 2005. Alabama has won 43 straight regional games dating back to 2007. The Tide has not trailed at the end of an inning in 107 straight innings this season.

Regional MVP: The Tide pitching staff 

The Tide posted shutouts in all three games, marking the first time Alabama has shut out every opponent in a regional round. The staff had a program regional record of 44 strikeouts to better the old record of 36 over FIVE games in 2007. Fouts had 28 strikeouts with only two walks in 14.0 IP while allowing seven total hits. Sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl had a career-high 15 strikeouts in 5.1 IP of a combined no-hitter with Krystal Goodman against Alabama State.

Up Next: No. 3 Alabama hosts No. 14 Kentucky in an All-SEC Super Regional


Gainesville Regional

Regional Champion: No. 4 Florida

Results: No. 4 Florida 8, USF 0

Sunday Star: Elizabeth Hightower, P, Florida

The junior right-hander picked a great time to throw her first career no-hitter. Hightower finished with a career-high tying 10 strikeouts while walking three to outduel USF ace Georgina Corrick. Strong defense helped preserve Hightower’s no-no. In the seventh inning, Florida second baseman Hannah Adams ranged deep into the hole on a ball up the middle and threw from her knees to get the runner at first.

“One of the best plays I’ve ever seen at second base,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said. “And with the weight of that? The kids on the field know that it’s a no-hitter and the kids on the field are doing everything they can to make sure that’s not a hit. I’ve seen a lot of (players) try to throw that to second and get the scorer’s judgment; fielder’s choice or hit? She came up and gunned it. That was awesome.” 

Highlights: Catcher Julia Cottrill sparked the offense for the Gators with an RBI double in the fourth inning and a solo home run in the sixth. The Gators could have scored more runs, but Corrick escaped two bases-loaded jams before being removed in the seventh inning. Sarah Longley capitalized on Corrick’s absence by hitting a grand slam – her first home run of the season – and Cheyenne Lindsey followed to make it back-to-back long balls to blow the game wide open. Corrick finished the regional throwing 29 innings, including a no-hitter, while giving up just three runs, 18 hits, four walks and striking out 32. Florida has won nine straight regional games by a combined score of 54-2, including seven straight shutouts.

Regional MVP: Hightower

The junior threw 13.1 hitless innings with 16 strikeouts in her two starts for the Gators. She nearly had two no-hitters, but was pulled from the regional opener in the top of the seventh of a 0-0 game when two USF runners reached base on an error and a walk. But it only meant her first career no-no was delayed by 48 hours.

Up Next: No. 4 Florida hosts Georgia in the Super Regional.


Stillwater Regional 

Results: No. 5 Oklahoma State 10, Mississippi State 2 (5 inn.)

Sunday Star: Reagan Wright, C, Oklahoma State

There are so many transfer stars on Oklahoma State’s roster, it’s easy to overlook Wright. Even Sunday, ACC transplants Carrie Eberle picked up another win in the circle and Hayley Busby hit a grand slam. But Wright got it going with two-run home run in the top of the second inning to reclaim the lead after Mississippi State jumped out to an early lead. She added a double later. 

Highlight: Oklahoma State attacked the opportunity to get to a super regional. In the first three innings alone, Wright and Shelby Pennington hit first-pitch home runs and Alysen Febrey hit a first-pitch RBI double. The Cowgirls had staked themselves to a 5-2 lead by that stage, and Busby closed things out with a fourth-inning grand slam (on a full count) to put the game in run-rule territory. Maybe applying all that pressure had something to do with Mississippi State also committing three errors, or maybe it’s a coincidence. But after falling behind initially, the Cowgirls played Sunday like a team with business beyond this weekend. 

Regional MVP: Sydney Pennington, 3B, Oklahoma State

There are plenty of offensive options after the Cowgirls scored 29 runs in three games. But give the nod to the in-state senior who helped Kenny Gajewski kick his rebuilding project into high gear when she committed. Sunday’s blast was her second home run of the regional and gave her sole possession of the program career home run record. She finished the regional with five hits, eight RBIs (singlehandedly accounting for more runs than Oklahoma State’s opponents scored all weekend) and even a stolen base. 

Up next: No. 5 Oklahoma State hosts the winner between No. 12 Texas and Oregon. 


Fayetteville Regional

Regional Champion: Arkansas 

Results: No. 6 Arkansas 7 Stanford 3

Regional Final Star: Linnie Malkin
 
It was another wild weekend for the Bogle Bombers and Linnie Malkin lead the charge. Malkin went 4-for-9 with seven RBIs, two homeruns and three runs. In the final game, the redshirt junior hit a three-run home run, her 18th of the year, to provide some insurance runs for Arkansas.

Mary Haff on the insurance runs:

“In the postseason, you’re never really comfortable. We were up one, so I knew I had to keep the lead, but with Stanford, they can hit a home run at any time and tie it back up. One run wasn’t really a comfortable lead but after the second homerun, I was like ‘okay, we got this.’ That felt like a big enough lead for us to be comfortable, but yeah, in postseason, you’re never really comfortable with a one-run lead.

Regional MVP: Mary Haff

The righthander led the Razorbacks in the circle all season long. Haff picked up all three Regional wins including six innings in relief in the final. The redshirt-junior threw 17 innings, giving up zero runs on 11 hits and struck out 15.

Haff on maturing as a pitcher:

“I think I’m a more mature pitcher than I was back then. I don’t really let my emotions get ahead of me or let the momentum of the game dictate how I’m going to pitch. It was good for the redshirt seniors and juniors to be able to be here to guide the underclassmen and help them stay calm and not make this bigger than what it is. I definitely think we’re a better team. I think last time we went we were just happy to be there, but now we’re ready to go and win a super.”


Baton Rouge Regional

Regional Champion: No. 7 LSU

Results: Louisiana 2, No. 7 LSU 0; No. 7 LSU 8, Louisiana 5

Regional Final Star: Georgia Clark, 1B, LSU

The sophomore led LSU’s prolific offensive attack in the winner-take-all final game. Clark was 2 for 2 with five RBIs and a walk. She hit a two-run single up the middle in the first inning and a three-run home run in the fifth inning. Her home run followed a great defensive play in the field in which Clark skied to snag a line drive at first base.

Highlight: After being shut out in the regional final opener, the top of LSU’s order came through in the winner-take-all game against in-state rival Louisiana. Aliyah Andrews, Ciara Briggs, Taylor Pleasants, Amanda Doyle and Georgia Clark combined for 8 of LSU’s 9 hits, 8 runs and 7 RBIs. Along with Clark’s outburst, Briggs was 3 for 4 with two runs scored and Andrews was 2 for 3 with three runs scored. A big moment in the victory came in the first inning. After UL’s Ciara Bryan homered on the first pitch of the game, Ali Kilponen walked the bases loaded with two outs. But she struck out Kendall Talley looking to keep the deficit manageable and LSU’s offense quickly answered in the bottom half. LSU advanced to the Super Regional for the ninth time in program history, including six straight.

Regional MVP: Ali Kilponen, LSU

The sophomore right-hander went the distance in both regional final games. She was the hard luck loser in Sunday’s opener, allowing four hits and two earned runs while striking out five. In the second game, Kilponen gave up six hits and four earned runs with five strikeouts and four walks to improve to 15-8. She threw 202 pitches in 13.0 IP.

“I think the entire team grew up out there today, but no one grew up more than Ali Kilponen,” LSU head coach Beth Torina said. “She hadn’t been in a big moment like that and never had the ball in that situation. She lived up to the bill and then some. She withstood the test after they pushed her out of her comfort zone. She responded every time.”

Up Next: No. 7 LSU hosts Florida State in the Super Regional


Columbia Regional 

Results: No. 8 Missouri 5, Iowa State 0 

Sunday Star: Jordan Weber, P, Missouri 

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After back-to-back one hitters by Missouri pitchers, including her own in Friday’s opener, Weber wrapped up a dominant regional by no-hitting Iowa State in Sunday’s final. It was Missouri’s first solo, seven-inning no-no in the NCAA tournament in nearly 40 years (and the first solo no-no of any length since Chelsea Thomas in 2011). Weber struck out seven and allowed just two runners to reach by way of walk. In 13 innings of the regional, the only hit Weber allowed was a bloop that dropped just beyond the shortstop’s glove. 

Highlight: Sunday brought another complete performance from a team that can stake a claim to the most complete performance in any regional. The Tigers pitched brilliantly and they hit more than well enough. But don’t forget the third part of the equation. Missouri couldn’t stop turning in defensive gems. There was Kim Wert going into the dugout for a catch and Abby George maintaining possession on a diving, rolling catch in the outfield. But the best of them all to preserve the no-hitter? Take a look at shortstop Jenna Laird’s play deep in the hole. 

Regional MVP: Hatti Moore, C, Missouri.

Weber probably deserves MVP honors for her two gems in the circle, but cut us some slack. We’re trying to spread the wealth. And Moore might be the only player who can challenge Weber for both Sunday and weekend honors. Her RBI double Sunday opened the scoring in the first inning and capped an impressive weekend. Moore finished with seven hits and four RBIs in the regional, including a 4-for-4 opener. It wasn’t just numbers, either. Sunday’s game got spicy early, an Iowa State assistant ejected in the first inning over what appeared to be complaints about illegal pitches (or the lack thereof). Immediately after, with both dugouts revved up, Moore made sure her teammates on the field felt the energy with her demonstrative reactions to back-to-back Weber strikeouts that ended the frame. Tangible and intangible, she did it all. 

Up Next: No. 8 Missouri hosts James Madison.


Regional Champion: No. 11 Arizona 

Results: No. 11 Arizona 12, Ole Miss 6 

Sunday Star: Mariah Lopez, P, Arizona

The right-handed hurler entered the clincher in relief in the second inning and held the Rebels to seven hits and two runs while striking out three batters. With Hanah Bowen and Alyssa Denham carrying more of the workload this season, we are sure Mike Candrea welcomed the gutsy performance by his redshirt senior. The Rebels scored two unearned runs in third, Lopez put up zeros the rest of the contest.

Regional MVP: Sharlize Palacios 

Palacios drove in 10 runs in three games, going 8-for-13 over the weekend. The redshirt freshman homered in game one against UMBC and hit a grand slam during an eight-pitch at-bat in Saturday’s game against Ole Miss. 

Highlight: Arizona overcame a six-run deficit to defeat Ole Miss in game six of the regional. The Rebels scored four runs in the first inning and tacked on two more in the third. The Wildcats answered back in an explosive fashion, collecting a season-high 19 hits in the game, 12 of them in the fourth and fifth innings. Malia Martinez blasted her 11th home run, while Jessie Harper went 3-for-5 with and knocked in three runs on the day.

Up Next: No. 11 Arizona will face No. 6 Arkansas.

Tallahassee Regional

Regional Champion: Florida State

Results: No. 10 Florida State 2, UCF 0

Regional Final Star: Kathryn Sandercock

Kathryn Sandercock threw her eighth complete game of the season to advance the Seminoles to the Supers. The right-hander held the Knights to no hits through 5.2 innings only to surrender a triple Denali Schappacher, the only hit of the game. Sandercock worked ahead in the count and mixed in her off-speed striking out eight, surrendering just one walk in the 2-0 victory.

Highlight: The Seminoles scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Elizabeth Mason lead off the inning with a double. Cassidy Davis followed up with another double to deep right field, that almost left the yard, prompting Mason to hold at second and only advance to third. Devyn Flaherty followed the pair of doubles with a bloop single to right-center to score Mason. With two outs in the inning, Danny Morgan pushed the lead to two on a fielders choice to second base

Regional MVP: Cassidy Davis

Davis reached base six times out of nine during the regional going 3-for-5 on the weekend with 4 RBIs, two home runs and four walks. The two home runs in the first game against UCF propelled the Seminoles to the Regional final.

Up Next: No. 10 Florida State travels to No. 7 LSU.


Austin Regional

Result: Oregon 3, No. 12 Texas 2; Texas 1, Oregon 0 (Oregon eliminated)

Sunday Star: Molly Jacobsen, P, Texas

Texas faced questions at the start of the season about how far it could go after Miranda Elish elected not to return. The answer is at least as far as the super regionals, in no small part because of another pitcher who came aboard. With the season on the line, Jacobsen dialed up a performance worthy of Cat Osterman, Blaire Luna, Elish and anyone else who wore burnt orange. While not as statistically dominant as those predecessors, striking out just two batters, Jacobsen’s five-hit shutout in the winner-take-all finale against the Ducks was epic. All the more after Mike White left her in despite Rachel Cid and Hanna Delgado leading off the seventh inning with hits. Jacobsen then calmly retired the heart of the order to secure the regional. It was the Ole Miss transfer’s second shutout in her lone season for the Longhorns. 

Highlight: Sunday was worth the wait, which is high praise considering the length of the rain delays in Austin. Both games offered the inning-to-inning tension — pitch-to-pitch tension — that makes postseason softball so fun. There was a winner-take-all game for Jacobsen star in only because after Texas’ Courtney Day tied the day’s opening game with a seventh-inning triple, Oregon’s Terra McGowan answered with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the eighth inning. And if Arizona State didn’t do much to help the Pac-12’s case for being slighted in the bracket, Oregon showed Saturday and Sunday why it deserved to be playing in Eugene this weekend. 

Regional MVP: Janae Jefferson, 2B, Texas

As much as the program has changed and grown under Mike White, it’s perhaps fitting that a Longhorns lifer had the best weekend in delivering the program to its eighth regional title. Jefferson wasn’t the star Sunday, but she was on base more often than not — which is kind of her thing. For the weekend, she hit .583 (7-for-13) and walked twice.

Up Next: No 12 Texas will try and reverse an 0-4 record in the series this season at it travels to Big 12 rival No. 5 Oklahoma State. 


Athens Regional

Regional Champion: Georgia

Results: Georgia 10, No. 13 Duke 9

Sunday Star: Sydney Chambley, Georgia

The freshman outfielder didn’t show any stage fright in her NCAA regional final debut. Chambley tied a season high with three hits and drove in two runs, including the game-winner, while playing stellar defense. She led off the fifth with a home run, and drove in Jayda Kearney with a single to left in the sixth inning for the final run of the game.

Highlight: The teams went back-and-forth in an offensive showcase that gave the scoreboard a workout. Duke held leads of 3-1, 7-4 and 9-6, but Georgia rallied each time. Postseason veteran Mary Wilson Avant was finally able to silence the Duke bats, throwing 2.0 innings of hitless relief to secure the win for the Dawgs. Sophomores Sydney Kuma and Sara Mosley had three RBIs apiece for Georgia ,which had 13 hits and left seven on base. The loss ended a historic season for Duke. The fourth-year program was making its first NCAA appearance. Duke was the only national seed that wasn’t selected to host a regional and was sent on the road to play on an opponent’s home field. Gisele Tapia finished 2 for 4 with four RBIs and Kristina Foreman was 2 for 4 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs.

Regional MVP: Mary Wilson Avant, P, Georgia

The redshirt senior guided the young Dawgs with her steady leadership in the circle. Avant threw 14 of the 20 innings Georgia played, going 3-0 with a two-hitter on Saturday against Duke followed by Sunday’s hitless relief to quell the offensive theatrics from the Blue Devils.

Up Next: Georgia travels to play at No. 4 Florida in the All-SEC Super Regional.


Lexington Regional

Results: No. 14 Kentucky 7, Notre Dame 0; Kentucky 4, Notre Dame 0

Sunday Star: Autumn Humes, P, Kentucky

Sunday was a new day for the Wildcats, and no one did more with it than the pitcher who was probably very eager to forget Saturday. On the wrong end of a run-rule loss against Notre Dame a day earlier, Humes beat the same team with a three-hit shutout Sunday (remarkably without a strikeout) to force a winner-take-finale. And to help make sure her team was the one doing the taking in that finale, she hit a solo home run to give her team a lead in the second and closed out the win by getting the final two outs in the circle in the seventh inning. 

Highlight: There were many authors of success as Kentucky became the 28th team in the super regional era to come through the losers bracket and win two games on a regional’s final day. Eight Wildcats drove in runs in the three elimination games. Miranda Stoddard embodied the collective effort in Sunday’s decisive game. With Kentucky holding an uncomfortably slim 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, Stoddard calmly took a 2-2 pitch on the fringes of the strike zone, then dropped a two-run single down the left field line on the next pitch. 

Regional MVP: Grace Baalman, P, Kentucky

Humes was terrific Sunday. But Kentucky played 21 innings of elimination softball over the weekend, and Baalman pitched 10 and 1/3 of those innings. The Wildcats would now be packing up their things and getting ready for summer if the ostensible No. 2 pitcher wasn’t ready for the challenge. She allowed just five hits and two earned runs in those 10-plus innings against the Fighting Irish, making sure Sunday that a Notre Dame team slipping toward its 16th consecutive regional exit never caught so much as the whiff of momentum. 

Up next: It’s a familiar matchup, as No. 14 Kentucky visits No. 3 Alabama.


Knoxville Regional

Regional Champion: James Madison University

Results: JMU 8, Liberty 5

Sunday Star: Lynsey Meeks, JMU

The 4-foot-11 third baseman was the emotional spark for the Dukes. Meeks finished 2 for 3 with a run scored, flexing when she got on base and screaming into the dugout to fire up her teammates.

Highlight: JMU didn’t panic when Liberty took an early 3-1 lead. The Dukes used a five-run fifth inning to extend their nation-leading win streak to 28 games and reach the Super Regional for the second straight time. Sara Jubas and Lauren Bernett drove in two runs apiece, with Bernett’s two-run home run in the sixth providing insurance. JMU redshirt senior Odicci Alexander started the game and re-entered to earn the save. In between, freshman Alissa Humphrey (14-0) remained undefeated by allowing one earned run and striking out three in 1.2 IP.

Regional MVP: Odicci Alexander, P, JMU

The redshirt senior finished the regional having thrown 355 pitches over 22.1 innings with 30 strikeouts. She earned two wins and a save while starting all three of JMU’s games. Alexander’s Ironwoman performance was highlighted by a program-record 19-strikeout performance in a 10-inning opening victory over Liberty. At the plate, Alexander had three hits and an RBI in 11 at-bats.

Up Next: JMU plays at No. 8 Missouri in the Super Regional


Tempe Regional

Regional Champion: Virginia Tech

Results: Virginia Tech 11, BYU 3

Regional MVP: Keely Rochard

Rochard picked up her third win to lead the Hokies to their second-ever Super Regional Championship. The right-hander struck out 11 in the five-inning victory.

Regional Star: Kelsey Bennett went 9-for-11, including 7 for her last 7 at-bats. Bennett finished her second-career regionals with a .818 batting average, two home runs, and four runs batted in. The sophomore led the team in the regular season with 11 homers.

Highlights: The Hokies’ bats were hot all weekend long in the desert. Virginia Tech tallied 42 hits in three games, outscoring opponents 24-7. Keely Rochard was a workhorse in the circle for the Hokies, picking up all three victories, totaling 19 innings pitched and 27 punch outs.  

Up Next: Super Regional vs. UCLA


Seattle Regional

Results: No. 16 Washington 2, Michigan 0; Washington 10, Michigan 5 

Sunday Star: Jadelyn Allchin, OF, Washington

Allchin entered the final day of the regional with just two official at-bats in the first three games. She finished the day with two of the more significant hits in Washington’s season. Morganne Flores got the Huskies started on the long road back with a first-inning home run in Sunday’s opening game, but Allchin cemented the momentum and made it a more comfortable lead with an RBI double in the next inning. Fast forward to the winner-take-all finale, and with the Huskies still trailing 5-3 with just 12 outs left against the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Allchin led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a home run — her first home run since March. That momentum snowballed into a seven-run inning that settled the game. 

Highlight: On the heels of Kentucky earlier in the day, Washington becomes the 29th team in the super regional era to win at least three consecutive elimination games to clinch a regional. The Huskies are also the fifth Pac-12 team to do that. Only the SEC has more. Meanwhile, Michigan is often at the center of drama. The Wolverines lost two on the final day of a regional for the second tournament in a row (bowing out against James Madison in 2019). But they also won two in a row at Arizona State in 2014. 

Regional MVP: Gabbie Plain, P, Washington

It wasn’t quite Danielle Lawrie pitching into the Massachusetts nights in a 2009 regional, but it wasn’t so very far off. Plain accepted the responsibility for a long day on Sunday and threw every pitch to beat the Big Ten champions in back-to-back games. She needed some help from her offense in the finale but allowed just one hit over the final five innings. For the weekend, she threw a pair of two-hit shutouts and the gutsy finale to more than make up for a tough-luck loss (only her third of the season) on Saturday. 

Up Next: No. 16 Washington visits No. 1 Oklahoma.

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