ANDERSON, S.C. – Carson-Newman (31-19) weathered an Anderson (32-16) comeback effort and got a timely late-inning knock to oust Anderson from the South Atlantic Conference Championships and advance to the SAC title game for a second straight year.
Katie Pritchett hit a bases-clearing double with two outs in the top of the seventh to break open a tie game after Anderson had scored three unanswered to knot things up.
Carson-Newman advances to its second straight SAC title game. The Eagles face the winner of Queens and Coker Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles will be taking aim at their league-record 11th tournament crown and a second straight. Carson-Newman hasn't won back-to-back tournament titles since 2008-2009.
"I can't say enough about how this team has come together and bought in to what we are doing in a short amount of time," interim head softball coach Michael Graves said. "Their determination and mental preparation at this tournament has been fun to be a part of. Lacie Rinus and Katie Pritchett has obviously been huge for us so far, and we'll need them to continue to be big tonight."
Carson-Newman got something brewing in the third. Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) got hit to lead off the inning. C-N then go two runners in scoring position with one out thanks to a Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) single back up then box and a KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) sacrifice bunt.
After an unproductive ground out, Haley Caldwell stroked a two-out single to the outfield to plate both runners and put C-N in front two nothing.
The Eagles added some more in the fifth. After a lineout to open the frame, Fiessinger singled to center. Levi then roped a double to left center to plate Fiessinger from three bases away and put C-N up 3-0.
Anderson got two back in the bottom of the frame. Ali Anderson hit a one-out double then scored when Kasey Grant tripled to right center. Grant came in to score on the same play on a throwing error by Toppel at second.
The Trojans then leveled things up in the bottom of the sixth. Cailah Niles led off with an infield single to short before moving to second when Joshlyn Martin got hit by a pitch. A strike out put the first out up, before a groundout moved the runners into scoring position.
The Eagles intentionally walked Rachael Barefield to load the bases. Ali Anderson came up with a clutch infield single to short before a lineout to short ended the threat with the game tied 3-3.
Carson-Newman got a leadoff single from Sohm to open up the seventh. A pop up, hit batter and fly out gave the Eagles two base runners with two outs.
Caldwell then delivered a two-out single to third to load the bases. Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) again delivered the clutch hit again. A game after hitting a grand slam, she roped a double down the left field line to clear the bases and put Carson-Newman on the front foot 6-3.
The Trojans got a run back in the bottom of the seventh when Niles homered to right with two out to set the final margin at 6-4.
Rinus put forth a solid effort in the circle to get to 21-12 for the Eagles. She pitched a perfect 4.1 innings, retiring the first 13 batters she faced before the Trojans notched a hit. Rinus struck out six, walked two and gave up six hits. Three of the four runs scored on her were earned.
Harlie Duncan took the loss for the Trojans. She went the distance, falling to 15-5. She allowed eight hits, walked two and struck out one.
Pritchett, Caldwell and Fiessinger led the Carson-Newman offense. Fiessinger went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Caldwell also levied a multi-hit effort with a 2-for-4 day. She also drove in two.
Pritchett led the team with her three RBI.
Niles and Anderson represented the Trojans top offensive threats. Niles was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Anderson went 2-for-3 with a run batted in.
Carson-Newman takes on the winner of Queens and Coker at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the SAC title.