No. 11 Bears spoil C-N softball senior day with sweep

VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 11 Lenoir-Rhyne (40-5, 17-1 South Atlantic Conference) scored six unanswered runs to force extra innings before winning it in the eighth to sweep Carson-Newman (27-17, 7-11 SAC) in heart-wrenching fashion and spoil the Eagles senior day Saturday afternoon at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex.

The Bears scored three unearned runs in the opener to pick up a 3-1 win before rallying with six unanswered to take a 7-5 decision in eight innings in the nightcap.  The Bears wins clinched them the South Atlantic Conference title outright and won them their 13th and 14th straight games.

"I think we played with great effort and we brought that effort all day long," interim head coach Michael Graves said. "There were a couple plays that we wanted to have back.  Those are things that we have to learn from though. 

"I think we had them on the ropes.  Shena's a great coach and they're a good team.  It's not accident that they are top 11 in the country.  Anybody that was hear I think would say that we outplayed them 13 out of 15 innings. That's why there's a final score, she's a good coach, they're a good team, and they found a way to win those ball games."

Pitcher Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) carried the Eagles both in the circle and at the plate.  She surrendered 10 runs on the day, however, only three of the runs she allowed were earned.  She struck out 10 through the doubleheader, six in game one and four in the nightcap. 

Rinus homered in game two and went 5-for-7 at the plate with three RBI.  She also homered in game one, but a two-run blast was wiped off the board after a protest sent the game back four batters. 

Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) and Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) also leveled multi-hit efforts on their senior days. 

Game one: No. 11 Lenoir-Rhyne 3, Carson-Newman 1

Lenoir-Rhyne took advantage of a Carson-Newman miscue to grab an early lead.  A dropped fly ball in center field let a two-out batter reach before Kylee Leonhardt took advantage by doubling in an unearned run to the right center field alley to set L-R in front 1-0.

The Bears added two more unearned runs in the top of the second.  An error at short extended the inning, allowing one run to score on a Mackensi Swain sacrifice fly to right and a second to come in on a Savannah Moorefield two-out single to left center.  That made it 3-0 Bears after two. 

Carson-Newman got all those runs back in the bottom off the fifth, but only momentarily.  A one-out single from Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) and a two-out walk for KaraLynne Levi gave the Eagles two base runners with two outs.  Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) cranked a 3-2 pitch over the wall in centerfield to tie things up 3-3. 

All those runs were wiped off though when the game was put under protest and Carson-Newman had to move back four batters.  

Trailing 3-0 entering the sixth, Carson-Newman would get a run back.  Rinus hit a one-out single to center, took second on a ground out and scored on a two-out Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) single back up the middle. 

In the seventh, Carson-Newman brought the go-ahead run to first base after a double and an intentional walk, but Levi lined out to center to end the game. 

Rinus took the loss to fall to 17-9.  She allowed five hits and struck out six.  None of L-R's three runs were earned.

Brandi Parks went the distance to improve to 18-3 with the win.

She allowed six hits and gave up a run, striking out four and walking two.

Game two: No. 11 Lenoir-Rhyne 7, Carson-Newman 5 (eight innings)

Carson-Newman used a two-out rally to grab the lead in the bottom of the third inning.  A lead-off hit batter got Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) on base.  A passed ball moved the runner to third, then KaraLynne (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) singled in the run with a base hit to left to put C-N up 1-0. 

Rinus then belted a 1-0 pitch deep into the pine trees in right to set C-N 3-0 after three. 

L-R got a run back in the top of the fifth in unearned fashion.  A single and a dropped fly ball in left set the table for Leonhardt. She singled through the left side of the infield to score Savannah Moorefield and pull the Bears within two, 3-1.

The Eagles got that run back in the bottom of the fifth inning. Three straight singles pushed a run across.  Fiessinger started it with an infield single to second.  Levi singled down the left field line before Rinus singled back up the box to score Fiessinger and push the lead back to three, 4-1.  

However, L-R would pull out all the stops to make the comeback.  The Bears got a leadoff single from Moorefield before line outs to first and left put outs one and two on the board.  Leonhardt doubled a 1-0 pitch into the right center field alley way to plate Moorefield and bring the tying run to the plate.

On the ninth pitch of her at-bat, Mackenzie Cates drilled a 3-2 pitch deep to center field to level the game at 4-4. 

Carson-Newman couldn't get anything rolling in the bottom of the seventh and the game headed to extras.

Moorefield sent a two-run double down the left field line and Erin Boone drove an RBI single to center to put L-R in front 7-5.  All three of the runs in the inning were unearned because of an error at first. 

Carson-Newman rallied in the bottom of the eighth, but couldn't pull off the comeback.  The Eagles got two one-out singles to score a run, Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) drove in the international-rule runner with a single to right center.

A Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) knock back up the middle loaded the bases, but the Eagles popped up and grounded out to end the game with the game-winning run on base and the tying run in scoring position. 

Rinus took the loss to fall to 17-10.  She struck out four and walked three.  Three of the seven runs L-R scored on her were earned.

Kimberly Blair notched the win in relief to improve to 2-0.  She pitched three innings, surrendered three hits and an unearned run. 

Carson-Newman returns to action Wednesday at Young Harris at 1 p.m. 

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