Lady Eagles Advance to Finals of Softball Regional
May 9, 2009
HICKORY, N.C. - Seventh-seeded Carson-Newman scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning and held off third-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne for a 6-4 victory in the winner's bracket final of the Hickory Region of the NCAA Division II Softball Tournament on Saturday at Bears Field.
The win marks the first time in school history that C-N has won more than one game in the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Eagles (31-15) advance to Sunday's championship game and will face the winner of tonight's matchup between Lenoir-Rhyne and Georgia College at 1:30 p.m. If the Lady Eagles lose that game, they will play again at 4 p.m. to determine the champion.
"Any time you play Lenoir-Rhyne, you are playing a team that is going to give you everything that they've got," C-N coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said. "We tip our hats to Lenoir-Rhyne and how hard they played, but I'm awfully proud of the orange and blue team that just played."
A major key to C-N's victory on Saturday was its effort in the field. The Bears (37-12) pounded out 15 hits, but the Lady Eagles did not commit an error and turned four double plays, including three that ended the inning.
"That's probably a school record for us," Hollifield said of the double plays. "We've said all along in preparation for coming down here that we've got to pitch well and we have to defend well."
"There were a couple of times it looked really bleak where they had the bases loaded or runners on second and third and we only had one out, but we got out of that situation a couple of times. We were very fortunate to do that."
The Lady Eagles collected seven hits on the day. Sarah Little (Calhoun, Ga.) led the way with three hits, including a solo home run (11), and four RBIs. For the tournament, Little has produced six hits and seven RBIs.
"I told Sarah at the beginning of the year she could be one of the most feared batters in all of Division II and I really meant that," Hollifield said. "When she gets extended on the ball, she is just a great hitter. Sarah has had a keen eye at this tournament."
Stephanie Templeton (Ringgold, Ga.) added two hits and one RBI in the win.
Kat Rivers (Royston, Ga.) and Noel Belk (Charlotte, N.C.) collected three hits each to lead Lenoir-Rhyne, while Carlee Carpenter (Newton, N.C.), Erin Evans (Fort Pierce, Fla.) and Brittney Furr (Concord, N.C.) finished with two hits apiece.
After pitching nine innings on Friday, Templeton (11-2) toed the rubber for all 10 innings Saturday to pick up the win. She surrendered four runs on 15 hits, walked six batters and struck out three.
Belk (16-4) was tagged with the loss after giving up six runs (three earned) on six hits in 9 1/3 innings of work. She also walked eight batters and hit five.
The Bears struck first in the bottom of the second inning. Evans lined a triple off the center field wall to lead off the inning. Furr followed with a single up the middle, driving home Evans to give Lenoir-Rhyne a 1-0 lead.
Lenoir-Rhyne pushed its lead to 2-0 in the home half of the third, as Carpenter led off with a single and later scored on a Furr single to center field.
The Lady Eagles rallied for three runs to take the lead in the top of the fourth.
Amber Palmer (Kennesaw, Ga.) was hit by a pitch and Brianne Coon (Orlando, Fla.) drew a walk to get things started. Leah Price (Spring City, Tenn.) then reached on a fielding error to load the bases. Whitney Durham (Rossville, Ga.) drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly to left field to trim Lenoir-Rhyne's lead to 2-1. Little ripped a double to center field in the next at bat, driving home two runs to give C-N a 3-2 advantage.
C-N's lead didn't last for long, as the Bears answered to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth on a Rivers RBI single.
The game then turned into a pitcher's duel as neither team scored a run during the next four innings.
Little broke the scoreless streak in the top of the ninth by sending a towering solo home run over the right field fence to give C-N a 4-3 lead, but the Bears answered in the bottom half of the inning by scoring a run on a Rivers double to center field.
The Lady Eagles put the game away in the top of the 10th as they built a 6-4 lead. Templeton and Little each produced a RBI single in the inning.
Templeton was then able to get the first three Lenoir-Rhyne batters out that she faced in the home half of the 10th to seal the win.