VIDEO: Michael Graves interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 23 Lincoln Memorial (25-5, 3-1 South Atlantic Conference) scored its first sweep of ninth-ranked Carson-Newman (14-3, 1-3 SAC) at The Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex since joining the SAC Wednesday afternoon.
The Railsplitters scored four unanswered runs to take game one 4-3 before scoring four times in the top of the seventh to leave no doubt for the sweep with a 6-1 win in the nightcap.
"I'm frustrated and our players are frustrated," head softball coach Michael Graves said. "Our pitching and defense put us in a position to win these games. However, we couldn't get momentum back from LMU. We need to do a better job of recognizing the pitch and going with the pitch. People will keep pitching us this way until we fix it."
The matchup represented the first for Carson-Newman featuring two ranked teams since 2010. The then No. 22 Eagles lost twice that day in the SAC Championship game to then No. 7 Lenoir-Rhyne.
GAME ONE: No. 23 Lincoln Memorial 4, No. 9 Carson-Newman 3
Carson-Newman took advantage of Lincoln Memorial miscues to light the lamp three times in the bottom of the first. Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) singled through the right side to lead off the game. She scored from three bases away a batter later on a deep fly ball to left center field from Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.).
Then Justice Smith struggled to throw strikes for the Railsplitters. She walked Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) and Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) back-to-back to load the bases. KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) wore pitches in back-to-back at-bats to stretch the Eagles lead to 3-0.
Carson-Newman couldn't do further damage though. Smith settled down to strike out two and induce a fielder's choice back to the circle to leave the bases loaded.
Lincoln Memorial would get all those runs back in the top of the third. LMU got walks from Bella Buccellato and McKenzie Henry. That set the table for Kelsie Hocutt. The Railsplitters' first baseman yanked her sixth home run of the year to left off the first pitch she saw to tie things up 3-3.
The Railsplitters raced into the lead in the top of the fourth. Grace Cochran led off the frame with a single to left and moved to second on a Kelsie Tuggle sacrifice. Cochran scored on a Buccellato double down the left field line to put LMU up 4-3. The Railsplitters had missed opportunities for more in the inning, LMU loaded the bases, but Rager got a punch out to end the threat and keep the damage to a run.
Smith retired the final 10 Eagles in order to close up shop on the win. Fiessinger represented the Eagles last baserunner who had a chance to score. She hit a two-out double in the fourth before Smith sat down the Eagles in order the rest of the way.
Smith stayed perfect on the season and improved to 7-0. She surrendered four hits, struck out four, walked three and hit two.
Rager was handed the loss to fall to 7-2. She matched her career high with eight strikeouts. However, five of the six hits that the Railsplitters registered off her were for extra bases.
GAME TWO: No. 23 Lincoln Memorial 6, No. 9 Carson-Newman 1
Lincoln Memorial wasted no time in taking a lead in game two. Goins led off the game with a double to the wall in center. She moved to third on a Sierra Hucklebee sacrifice bunt and scored on McKenzie Henry's league-leading 38th RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly down the left field line. That put LMU up 1-0.
The Railsplitters padded their lead in the second with a two-out double. Kelsie Tuggle hit a tweener to right to plate Emma Webb from two bases away and stretch the lead to 2-0.
The Eagles got a run back in the bottom of the second. Levi led off the frame by sending a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left center for her team-best fifth home run of the season. Carson-Newman got the go-ahead run on base in the frame after a double from Ashlynn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) and a walk to Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.). However, Leah Sohm was called out of the box on a foul ball to end the inning and the threat.
Lincoln Memorial added four in the seventh to add loads of insurance. Tuggled knocked in a run with a one-out double. Then Ty-Kella Goins sneaked a home run inside the right-field foul pole for a three-run blast to set the final margin at 6-1 in favor of LMU.
Faith Howe improved to 8-2 in the circle with the win. She only allowed three hits, struck out two and walked one.
Rinus took her first loss of the season, and sits at 6-1. She gave up nine hits.
Carson-Newman returns to action Saturday against Catawba. First pitch from The Vick is set for 1 p.m. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network at cneagles.com/live.