ATHENS, W.Va. – Carson-Newman (12-6) rallied from its second largest deficit of the last five seasons to rally from a four-run deficit in game two and earn a split in a doubleheader with Concord (2-4) Tuesday afternoon at the CU Softball Complex.
Concord won game one 7-2 on the back of a big inning before the Eagles powered back for a 10-6 win in eight innings in the nightcap guided by a season-high 16 hits.
The four-run deficit is the largest deficit the Eagles have overcome in three years since, well, the last time they paid a visit to Concord. That day, the Eagles trailed 4-0 heading into the fourth before coming back for an 8-5 win. Carson-Newman trailed 5-1 entering the fifth of game two Tuesday before rallying for the- 10-6 extra innings win.
"We shook the lineup up for game two," head softball coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said. "We tried anything and everything and they responded. I'm proud of them for coming back in game two. But we also have to come out with life and fire in game one. You can't jump start everyone. We have to get going and be motivated from the outset. I haven't seen it yet consistently like we need to have."
Morgan Crawford (Chickamauga, Ga.) had a monster day at the plate. The pitcher collected the win in the nightcap, but also went 3-for-3 with five RBI, a double and a home run.
"Morgan Crawford played a great ball game," Kazee-Hollifield said. "She took aggressive cuts and swung through the zone. She was attacking through the batter's box consistently."
While Toppel rounded into form at the plate, Kazee-Hollifield singled out her play in the field.
"Kristen Toppel made some unbelievable defensive plays," Kazee-Hollifield said. "She had a lot of hard hit balls that she robbed of base hits. She made some nice backhanded plays that robbed them of base hits and was her normal steady self."
Toppel and Caldwell were both 4-for-7 at the plate in the doubleheader. Caldwell drove in four runs and hit four doubles, two in each game, for the twinbill.
Game one: Concord 7, No. 25 Carson-Newman 2
Carson-Newman outhit Concord in game one, but the Mountain Lions got the majority of their hits right in a row to break up a pitcher's duel and collect a game one win.
The teams played scoreless for the first three innings before breaking through in the fourth.
The Eagles lit the lamp first with a one-out single for Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) down the right field line.
That lead wouldn't stand. Carson-Newman would go on to lose its first game of the season when scoring first thanks to a massive two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth for the Mountain Lions.
After a fly out and a line out to open the inning, Concord smashed out six runs off of five hits all with two outs on the board.
Amber Stokes and Darby Fitzpatrick brought the first two runs in with singles to center and through the left side. A walk to Abby Beatty loaded the bases for Kylie Kent who whipped a ball back up the middle to plate two and extend the Mountain Lions lead to 4-1.
Jenna Witt then tripled to right to clear the bases and put Concord up 6-1.
Carson-Newman got a run back in the sixth off another Caldwell double, this one plating Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) who had reached earlier in the inning on a fielder's choice. However, a strike out and a ground out ended the Eagles' chances of doing more damage.
The Mountain Lions got the run back in the bottom of the inning. Beatty belted a two-out solo home run to stretch the margin to 7-2, where it would stay.
Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) took the loss to fall to 6-5. She fired five innings in the circle, allowing seven hits and six runs. She walked two and struck out five.
Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.) worked the final inning, giving up the two-out blast.
Darby Fitzpatrick picked up the win for Concord to improve to 1-2. She allowed nine hits, but just two runs. She didn't walk anyone and she struck out one.
Game two: Carson-Newman 10, Concord 6 (eight innings)
Carson-Newman again started off with the lead, taking it much earlier. The Eagles scraped across an unearned run in the first thanks to Sohm. She hit an infield single to short to open the game before Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) moved her over second on a sacrifice. On a Rinus groundout to the pitcher, Sohm moved over to third, then strode home on a throwing error by the first baseman to give C-N a 1-0 lead.
It would be short-lived.
Following a base on balls, a sacrifice and a groundout to first, Concord had a runner on scoring position with two out. The Mountain Lions would again put together a two-out rally. Kayle Starnes hit an infield single to third before Rachel Pritchard helped the cause mightily with a two-RBI stick back up the box.
Following a double and a base on balls, Morgan Crawford (Chickamauga, Ga.) was chased from the game in favor of Rinus. Rinus issued two free passes with the bases loaded to set the margin at 4-1 before Beatty struck out to end the inning.
The Mountain Lions would extend their lead in the fourth. Beatty led off that inning with a bomb that stretched the advantage to 5-1.
The Eagles began to chip their way back in the fifth with a two-out rally. Toppel and Rinus singled to third and back up the box to give the Eagles a pair of baserunners before Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) loaded the bases with a base on balls. Caldwell came through with the clutch, two-out base knock.
She roped a ground-rule double down the left field line to plate Rinus and Toppel and pull Carson-Newman within two, 5-3.
The Eagles would even things up the next inning. KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) worked a leadoff walk to set the table for Crawford. The freshman sent a no-doubter over the fence in left to even the score. Carson-Newman had a chance to bring the go-ahead run in in the inning but left the bases loaded.
Both Carson-Newman and Concord had opportunities to end it in regulation. Carson-Newman had two on with one out after singles from Levi and Crawford, but grounded into a pair of fielder's choice to end the top of the seventh.
Concord got a two-out double from Pritchard in the home half of the seventh, but a groundout to second ended that threat.
C-N would leave no doubt in extra innings. With the international-rule runner Sohm on second, Toppel dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move her into prime scoring position at third. Rinus delivered the go-ahead run with a single back up the box.
A walk to Levi loaded the bases for Crawford, who came through with another timely at-bat. The freshman slugged a double to right center to clear the bases and push the Eagles' advantage to 10-5.
Concord managed a run in the seventh off a one-out double from Stokes, but Crawford slammed the door shut, generating groundball outs to second and third to end the game.
Crawford got the W to improve to 6-1 on the year. She pitched 4.2 innings, allowing five hits with five runs scored, four of which were earned. She walked two and struck out two.
Rinus worked 3.1 innings in the middle of the game, giving up four hits and a run. She walked three and struck out three.
Pritchard took the loss in the circle to fall to 1-2 for the Mountain Lions. She allowed eight hits and seven runs, six of which were earned.
The Eagles return to action Saturday against Limestone at 1 p.m. Coverage of the doubleheader will be available on the Eagle Sports Network online at cneagles.com/live.