JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Opening the season for the third consecutive year against Lees-McRae, No. 20 Carson-Newman picked up shutout victories in a doubleheader sweep at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles topped the Bobcats (0-2) in five innings 8-0 in game one before a 3-0 victory solidified the sweep.
"You're always just glad to get that first game over with and then the doubleheader today," head coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said. "But I thought our pitchers came out and both of them really pitched effectively today."
Despite hot bats and various scoring opportunities in the first game for C-N, it was the defense that showed its strength today as the Eagles (2-0) held the Bobcats to just five hits on the day.
Lacie Rinus compiled a hefty statline, allowing no runs on just three hits with 11 strikeouts, picking up the win in the first game before grabbing her first career save in the second.
"Lacie has worked extremely hard and she had a phenomenal year last year, but she knows she's got to go out there and work every single day," Kazee-Hollifield said.
The first three innings of each matchup saw the Eagles score a majority of their runs for each respective game, a total of seven runs were scored in that frame.
Carson-Newman expanded its winning streak over Lees-McRae to 14-straight and now have 25 shutout victories to its name against the Bobcats.
GAME ONE: Carson-Newman 8, Lees-McRae 0 (five innings)
In the second inning, Caldwell bested Bethany Davis as the Carson-Newman player to homer fastest in her career. Caldwell took a 3-2 pitch as the leadoff batter in the second inning and planted it squarely over the wall in straight away center field.
Carson-Newman had the bases loaded in that inning with a single and two walks. However, a trio of strikeouts limited the damage to just a run.
Lees-McRae broke up Rinus' perfect game in the third inning. Chelsea DiGregorio knocked a bloop single to left center before advancing to third on a pair of sacrifices. However, Rinus induced a ground out to second baseman Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) to preserve the shutout.
Carson-Newman made Lees-McRae pay for failure to get a timely hit the next half inning.
Toppel reached on an error to start the frame then promptly stole second base. Fiessinger stroked a ball up the middle to plate Toppel for an unearned run and a 2-0 lead.
A walk and a hit batsman gave the Eagles a bases loaded situation with no one out. Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) roped a one-out single into right to score two and stretch the advantage to 4-0. After a ground out put out number two up, Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) squeezed an infield single to third base, beating out the throw to first and scoring Kennedy Richardson (Elizabethton, Tenn.) to give the Eagles a four-spot and a 5-0 lead after three.
Lacie Rinus picked up where she left off in the fourth by striking out the side for a third time on the day.
Carson-Newman added to its tally in the fourth with a bases loaded walk for Cheyenne Boles (Knoxville, Tenn.) to drive in the sixth run of the day and another from KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) to give C-N a 7-0 advantage with two outs in the fourth. Carson-Newman left the bases loaded in the frame for a third time however, leaving the score at 7-0.
The Eagles then walked it off via the run rule in the fifth. Toppel walked to lead off the innings and promptly stole second. Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) then reached on an error at short that allowed Toppel to come in to score, ending the game.
Rinus (1-0) notched the complete-game, two-hit shutout. She fanned nine and didn't walk anyone.
Rinus only allowed one batter past first base.
Kara Cunningham was shackled with the loss. She struck out seven, but also walked eight and surrendered six hits. Of the eight runs that C-N scored on her, only three were earned thanks to a trio of Bobcat errors.
VIDEO: Haley Caldwell Interview
GAME TWO: Carson-Newman 3, Lees-McRae 0
Lees-McRae had the best chance of getting on the board first in the second inning With Sarah Tucker on second, Digregorio followed up with a reach at first after C-N's pitcher Morgan Crawford (Chickamauga, Ga.) bobbled a ball that headed to her in the circle, resulting in an error on the freshman and sending Tucker to third. Mallory Myers popped up to short to strand two runners on first and third.
Crawford was walked to start the bottom of the third inning, bringing in Haley Kyle (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) to pinch run. A little later, a Toppel single to left brought Kyle in to record the first run for C-N as Toppel advanced to second on the toss to home. Next up was Fiessinger who also singled to left, allowing Toppel to cross to plate to put the Eagles up, 2-0.
In the bottom of the fifth frame, Levi hit a single that bobbled along the right field line before being ruled fair, allowing her to round the bases for a triple. Toppel was subsequently walked before stealing second, placing two Eagle runners in scoring position. Fiessinger stepped up with a grounder to short, sending Toppel to third as Levi crossed the plate to make it 3-0 in favor of C-N, giving the Eagles their last run of the day.
After some struggles from the circle allowing two hits and picking up the error early on, Lacie Rinus came in to relieve Crawford (1-0) at the top of the sixth.
VIDEO: Lacie Rinus Interview
Cassidy Largen (0-1) was given the loss for Lees-McRae, allowing three runs on five hits with a trio of walks and strikeouts.
The Eagles now look ahead to a trip to Erskine on Tuesday. First pitch against the Fleet is set for 1 p.m. at the Erskine Softball Complex in Due West, S.C.