Lady Eagles eliminate Armstrong Atlantic State, 8-4, to advance to NCAA Southeast Regional finals
HICKORY, N.C. — The sixth-seeded Carson-Newman softball team defeated third-seeded Armstrong Atlantic State, 8-4, on Saturday afternoon at Bears Field to advance to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional finals for the second time in three years.
With the win, the Lady Eagles (41-16-1) will face second-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the finals. C-N will have to defeat the Bears twice to advance to the Super Regionals. Armstrong Atlantic concludes its season at 31-14.
"We are really thrilled with this victory," C-N head coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said. "We played hard, and I thought the key for us was attacking good pitching. We talked about being patient, and I think we were. Pitch selection is so critical, and I was proud of the way we handled that."
C-N got off to a strong start in the opening frame with the help of two Pirates errors. Senior Amber Hewitt (Ringgold, Ga.) reached on a Armstrong Atlantic throwing error and later scored, while senior Leah Price (Spring City, Tenn.) scored on an error to give the Lady Eagles a 2-0 advantage.
Armstrong Atlantic answered in the second, as Heather Walker delivered a run-scoring single and Lauren Wilcox scored on a C-N error to tie the game at 2-2.
However, the Lady Eagles took control of the game in the third with a three-run outburst, including a RBI single by Kim Whaley (Maryville, Tenn.) and a two-run double by Sara Kelley (Birchwood, Tenn.) that gave C-N a 5-2 cushion.
C-N added to its lead in the fourth on a two-run blast by sophomore Bri Shoemake (Ooltewah, Tenn.), and a RBI single by Price in the fifth put the game out of reach.
The Lady Eagles finished with six hits in the contest, including two apiece from Shoemake and Whaley.
Armstrong Atlantic collected 10 hits in the loss. Walker and Baillie Temples produced two hits each to lead the way.
Junior pitcher Mary Shealy (Clinton, S.C.) turned in another stellar performance in the circle for the Lady Eagles. Shealy (38-14) gave up two earned runs and 10 hits and had four strikeouts in seven innings of work. She also didn't allow a walk for a second consecutive game.
Pirates starting hurler Megan Barnwell (23-9) was tagged with the loss after giving up four earned runs and five hits in three innings in the circle.
The Lady Eagles now turn their focus to sixth-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne, as the teams will play for a berth to the Super Regionals. C-N and Lenoir-Rhyne met in the 2009 Southeast Regional finals, with the Lady Eagles coming out on top to earn their first-ever trip to the Super Regionals.