SALISBURY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (29-19, 8-12 South Atlantic Conference) notched its first win at Catawba's (20-25, 8-12 SAC) Whitley Field since 2010, then got some help from elsewhere in the league to make the SAC tournament Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles dominated game one 5-0 before injuries hampered the Eagles to a 3-2 loss in the nightcap. The split meant Carson-Newman needed help from elsewhere in the league to clinch a spot in the league tournament.
Carson-Newman got that help. Wingate split a doubleheader with Mars Hill while Coker and Queens beat Lincoln Memorial and Tusculum to aid C-N in to the tournament.
"We knew coming in that we controlled our own destiny," interim head coach Michael Graves said. "We didn't respond to some adversity in game two. We can't let things snow ball like we did in game two. We did a good job hanging in there though and gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game, we capitalized, but then gave it right back."
Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) each tallied three hits on the day. Toppel went 3-for-3 in the night cap. Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) belted a home run and drove in four in game one.
"Game one was a complete game," Graves said. "That was a total team effort. We pitched well, played good defense, took good cuts at the plate. Couldn't ask any more of their efforts in game one. Lacie was a true warrior on the mound and then the girls played spectacular defense behind her." "
Game one: Carson-Newman 5, Catawba 0
Carson-Newman grabbed the lead in the third after a pair of free bases. Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) both walked to open up the third. KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) dropped down a sacrifice to third to move the pair into scoring position.
Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) doubled through the left side to bring Sohm in before Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) singled through the left side to drive in both Fiessinger and Rinus to put C-N up 3-0.
Carson-Newman padded its lead in the fifth. Fiessinger led off the inning with a base hit through the left side. A sacrifice and a ground out set the stage for Caldwell. She cranked a 2-0 pitch over the wall in center for her eighth home run of the year and a 5-0 lead for the Eagles.
That'll do it. @lacieloo22 deals a one-hit shutout. @HaleyC_14 homers and drives in four. C-N gets its first win in Salisbury, N.C. since 2010— C-N Athletics (@CNathletics) April 21, 2018
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Rinus notched the win in the circle for the Eagles. She carried a no-hitter a batter deep into the fifth. She struck out five and walked one to improve to 19-11. Ellenburg took the loss to fall to 5-12 for the Indians. Brooke Wallser hurled the final 4.2 innings in relief for the Indians. She gave up three hits and two runs.
Game two: Catawba 3, Carson-Newman 2
It was Catawba who lit the lamp first in game two, taking advantage of an error to do so in the first. Leah Huggins led off the inning with a single to center before moving to second on an error by Rinus in the circle.
Huggins raced home on a Delane Smith one-out single to center field that put Catawba up 1-0. The Indians failed to take further advantage of the situation as Monica Taylor grounded into an inning-ending 6-3 double play.
After stranding runners in the first four innings, Carson-Newman finally broke through in the fifth. Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) led off the frame with a double through the left side. A strikeout and a Levi walk brought up Rinus with one out.
She tied the game with a single looped into right to plate Toppel. After a pitching change, a walk to Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) loaded the bases. Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) grounded into a fielder's choice to short to bring around Levi and put C-N up 2-1.
Carson-Newman did leave the bases loaded in the top of the fifth.
The lead would be short-lived. With the infield shuffled around thanks to an injury the previous inning, Carson-Newman made two errors and let two runs come in.
Monica Taylor led off the sixth and reached on a fielding error at third. A pinch-hitting Katelyn Jones dropped down a bunt and scored the tying run thanks to some miscommunication from the Eagles' defense. Sierrah McCarthy then reached on a throwing error from the circle on a bunt that allowed Jones to score from two bases away and put Catawba back in front 3-2.
Carson-Newman got the tying run on base in the top of the seventh, but finished the game with a fielder's choice and a groundout.
Rinus took the loss in hard-luck fashion to fall to 19-12. She gave up five hits, but just one of the three runs that Catawba scored off her were earned.
Walser got the win in relief for the Indians. She fired 2.2 innings of one-hit, shutout softball to clinch Catawba a tournament spot.
Carson-Newman will square off with top-seeded and seventh-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne in the opening round of the SAC tournament Friday.