DUE WEST, S.C. – No. 20 Carson-Newman (3-1) slogged through the offensive doldrums in game one before breaking out the big bats in the night cap to earn a split in a doubleheader at Erskine (2-2) Tuesday afternoon at the Erskine Softball Complex.
Erskine won game 1-0 before the Eagles grounded the Flying Fleet with a 13-0 run-rule win in the night cap.
"First game we didn't come out ready," head softball coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said. "Credit (Erskine pitcher and reigning Conference Carolinas Pitcher of the Week Morgan) Hendricks, she pitched well, but we weren't attacking the ball. She's the type of pitcher you have to attack, and we didn't for seven innings. We switched the lineup in game two and relied more on our upperclassmen and that worked well for us. It's early, we need to continue to push and work."
Hendricks kept Carson-Newman off-balance all game one and struck out seven. The Eagles' pitching wasn't too shabby either. Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) limited the Flying Fleet's damage to a run in game one with seven strikeouts. Morgan Crawford (Chickamauga, Ga.) only allowed two base runners to get into scoring position in the night cap.
"Lacie and Morgan both pitched well, they both deserved to win their games," Kazee-Hollifield said. "However, unfortunately didn't happen because we failed to cross home plate in game one. I'm thankful we stepped up and provided ample run support in game two."
Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) brought some lumber to the party in Due West in game two. Cooper reset her career high for runs batted in a single game with four. She was 3-for-3 at the plate and clobbered her sixth career home run.
"Ashlyn brought a level cut and went after good pitches," Kazee-Hollifield said. "She brought the aggressiveness to the plate that we were missing in game one. That's nice to see out of an upperclassman."
Cooper, Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) and Janelle Benzick (Virginia Beach, Va.) all went yard in game two. Cooper, Caldwell and Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) had multi-hit days. Cooper, Caldwell, Taylor Scott (Hungtinton, W.Va.) and Benzick drove in multiple runs.
The loss in game one snapped a nine-game nonconference win streak for the Eagles. It was also Carson-Newman's first season-opening road loss since the 2011 season.
Game one: Erskine 1, No. 20 Carson-Newman 0
Erskine got on the board in the first inning taking advantage of a C-N miscue to manufacture a run. Brittany Rhinehardt led off the game with a bunt single. She took second and caught C-N's defense unawares on a foul out to the catcher on the next at-bat. A sacrifice moved Rhinehardt to third, then she came in to score on a Sydney Smith two-out single to center.
That 1-0 lead would hold up.
The Eagles had scoring chances in the fourth and fifth innings, but couldn't capitalize on base runners.
In the fourth, Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Cheyenne Boles (Knoxville, Tenn.) strung together two-out singles to centerfield. However, Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) struck out to end the frame.
Again in the fifth, the Eagles had two on. KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) knocked a one-out base hit to right center before Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) got plunked with two out to give the Eagles their second base runner. However, Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) couldn't make solid contact and fouled out to the shortstop to end the frame.
Erskine pitcher Morgan Hendrix retired the Eagles in order the rest of the way to improve to 2-0 on the year.
Hendrix struck out seven and didn't walk a soul in scattering four hits for her first shutout of the season.
Rinus was the hard-luck loser to drop to 1-1. She fanned seven and walked three, surrendering six hits on the day.
The shutout was Carson-Newman's first since a 2-0 defeat at Coker on April 8, 2017. The loss marked Carson-Newman's first 1-0 defeat since losing to Lenoir-Rhyne 1-0 on April 23, 2016. Carson-Newman had won four straight 1-0 games prior to the loss.
Game two: No. 20 Carson-Newman 13, Erskine 0 (five innings)
Carson-Newman's bats came to life in a big way in game two and did so from the outset. The Eagles scored eight runs in the first two innings of the game en route to a run-rule victory.
The Eagles got things started with timely two-out hitting. Cooper roped a single up the middle with the bases loaded to score the first two runs of the game. Then Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) got in on the party by lifting a single down the left field line to score two more with the bases juiced.
The Eagles led 4-0 after one, then blasted off to the #DingerDistrict in the second. Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) clobbered a 2-0 pitch to left center to drive in two with one out. A Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) walk and a batter later, Cooper went yard for the sixth time in her career and the first time in her junior campaign to stretch the lead to 8-0.
Carson-Newman added three more runs in the third. Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) doubled in Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) with a shot to left center, then Rinus nipped a single up the middle with runners on the corners. Fiessinger scored easily from third for an RBI for Rinus, then Caldwell took advantage of a throwing error by the second baseman to score from first and extend the lead to 11-0.
Janelle Benzick (Virginia Beach, Va.) kept the good times rolling in the fourth with her first career home run. She took a 1-0 pitch to left to score Cooper and stretch the Eagles' advantage to 13-0.
While the Eagles' offense was explosive, Carson-Newman's pitching and defense wasn't too shabby either. Starting Eagle pitcher Morgan Crawford (Chickamauga, Ga.) scattered five hits to pick up her first career complete-game shutout and only allowed two base runners to get into scoring position. She improves to 2-0 on the year with the win.
Hannah Houge took the loss in the start for Erskine to drop to 0-2 on the year. She surrendered seven earned runs and five hits in 1.2 innings of work. Sheridan Butcher worked the next inning and a third, allowing six hits and five runs, four of which were earned. Samantha Schmidt pitched the final two innings. She gave up two hits and a run.
The 13 runs Carson-Newman scored are the second most that either team has tallied in the series' 59-game history. The 2004 version of the Carson-Newman Eagles tallied 14 runs in a 14-0 win. The 13-run margin also goes down as the second largest margin of victory for Carson-Newman in series history.
The Eagles return home Saturday to take on Georgia College at noon from The Vick. Coverage of the doubleheader will be available on the Eagle Sports Network online at cneagles.com/live.