BACK-TO-BACK! Eagles lay claim to second straight and league-record 11th SAC tournament title

BACK-TO-BACK! Eagles lay claim to second straight and league-record 11th SAC tournament title

ANDERSON, S.C. – Carson-Newman (32-19) used a big fourth inning and rode the arm of Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) to a second straight South Atlantic Conference tournament championship.   

The Eagles defeated Coker 5-1 Saturday evening at the Anderson Softball Complex to win their league record 11th SAC tournament title. 

"We all got together before we played and made a pact that we were going to win every single situation the weekend," interim head softball coach Michael Graves said. "I think, with only a handful of exceptions where they didn't do that.  It's amazing what this team can accomplish when they play together."

The SAC tournament win is the first by an eight seed in the last decade. Carson-Newman won the league tournament as a six seed in 2009, the only other team seeded outside the top four this decade to win the tournament championship. 

Carson-Newman's march to the SAC tournament title took the Eagles through the three teams, Lenoir-Rhyne, Anderson and Coker, that swept Carson-Newman in South Atlantic Conference play. 

Carson-Newman's win over Coker is its second straight in a SAC title game. 

Carson-Newman struck exceedingly quickly.  Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) led off the game and tanked the second pitch she got over the wall in left center field to put Carson-Newman up 1-0.

That lead would be short-lived.  Anna Gluhosky started things off for Coker with a single to center field.  After a   sacrifice moved her to second, Maria Williamson drove her in with a single to right center field to level it up at 1-1 after one inning. 

The Eagles then poured it on the fourth, taking advantage of Coker miscues.  After a groundout, Haley Caldwell reached on an error in left on a dropped fly ball. 

After a strikeout, the Eagles put together a massive two-out rally.  A walk and a Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) single to center loaded the bases for Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.).

She slashed a single into center field to score two and put C-N up 3-1.  However, the Eagles weren't done in the inning. 

Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) hit a ball that was mishandled at first, allowing her to reach and both Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.) and Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) to score two unearned runs. 

Fiessigner rounded out the scoring in the inning with an RBI single to right that scored Toppel.  Sohm tried to score from third, but gunned down at the plate 9-3-2.  When the dust settled, the Eagles led 5-1.     

The Eagles ended the game when third baseman Valerie Seay made a leaping grab to double up the Cobras in the seventh. 

Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)  then shut down the Cobras the rest of the way.  She went the distance to improve to 22-12 in the circle.  Rinus struck out eight and walked one.  She worked  around seven hits. 

"I think she had the mindset to give us a chance to win any game we were in," Graves said. "This was just Lacie being Lacie.  We got ourselves in a couple of jams, but that stuff doesn't faze her and the defense made some great plays behind to make things happen."

Christine Carver took the loss for Coker in a five-inning start.  She drops to 18-7.  Carver gave up six hits.  Of the five runs C-N scored off her, one was earned. 

Taylor Forehand pitched the final two innings and struck out four. 

Fiessinger came within a double of a cycle for the Eagles.  She went 3-for-4 with two RBI, a run scored, a dinger and a triple. 

Carson-Newman will be in the NCAA tournament for the 14th time and a third time four years. 

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