ANDERSON, S.C. – Carson-Newman (30-19) got a massive home run and excellent pitching to hand top-seeded and ninth-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne (42-8) its largest loss of the season Friday afternoon in the South Atlantic Conference Championship Quarterfinals at the Anderson Softball Complex.
The Eagles advance in the SAC tournament to play Anderson Saturday at noon. The Trojans eliminated fourth-seeded Wingate 3-1 in the first game of the day. Carson-Newman eliminated the Bears from the tournament.
Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) twirled a three-hit shutout in the circle, striking out eight. Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) stroked a grand slam for her 21st-career bomb and the Eagles' first grand slam since Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) hit one against Newberry on April 1 last year.
The win over the ninth-ranked team in the country is Carson-Newman's first over a top-10 team since beating a then 10th-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne team 8-7 on April 2, 2010. The 6-0 win accounts for Carson-Newman's largest margin of victory over a top-10 foe in the last 15 years.
The Eagles tallied their big inning in the third. Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) led off with a single to left and scored on a throwing error by the pitcher on a ball hit by Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
That set the stage for Pritchett's yoke.
After a groundout, walks to Rinus and Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) loaded the bases for Pritchett. The senior blasted a grand slam over the wall in right to push Carson-Newman's advantage to 5-0.
Carson-Newman padded its lead in the fifth. Caldwell led off the inning with a double down the left field line.
After a strikeout, Cheyenne Boles (Knoxville, Tenn.) got plunked. With two out, Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) ripped a single to right to plate Caldwell from two bases away and extend the lead to 6-0.
Lenoir-Rhyne's best chances came in the third and the fifth innings. In the third, the Bears had two on with one out with a walk and an error, but Rinus got a line out and a strikeout to finish off the frame.
The fifth proved to be more problematic, but Rinus nonetheless escaped unscathed. The Bears got two in scoring position after back-to-back base hits to start the inning from Madison Carter and Mikayla Swain. However, a sacrifice, a strike out and a line out ended the threat.
Pritchett was 1-for-4 with the jack and four driven in. Caldwell tallied the only multi-hit effort for the Eagles, she was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Rinus notched the win in the circle for the Eagles to improve to 20-12. She walked two and struck out eight in the three-hit shutout effort.
Brandi Parks was hit with the loss for the Bears. She got the start in falling to 19-5. She gave up two hits, three runs, two of them earned.
Emily Kenley pitched in relief for 4.2 innings. She allowed seven hits and three runs, all earned. Kenley struck out six and walked one.
The Eagles face fifth-seeded Anderson in the semifinals of the SAC tournament Saturday at noon.