Big sixth innings power Catawba to two wins over No. 9 Carson-Newman

KaraLynne Levi tags out Kaylee Cook at the plate
KaraLynne Levi tags out Kaylee Cook at the plate

VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - Catawba (16-11, 4-2 South Atlantic Conference) scored eight runs across the sixth innings to come from behind twice and sweep ninth-ranked Carson-Newman (14-5, 1-5 SAC) Saturday at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex. 

The Indians won game one 6-3 behind a three-run sixth before taking the night cap 8-7.  The Indians rallied from a four-run deficit in that one behind a five-run sixth.

"There were some balls in front of us that we didn't make plays on," head softball coach Michael Graves said. "Obviously, we're not happy with our defense. Pitching, we missed our spots and left the ball up consistently, which we hadn't done all year."

The sweep is Catawba's first at Mossy Creek since 2009.  The Eagles have now lost four straight games to match the second longest losing streak in program history. 

Carson-Newman had played error free for six straight games, but made two errors in each game.  Of the 14 runs that Catawba scored, only eight were earned. 

The loss belied solid days at the plate for Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.).  Rinus hit for the cycle across the doubleheader and drove in three.  Levi went 3-for-6 at the dish, hit her sixth homer of the year and also drove in three. 

GAME ONE: Catawba 6, No. 9 Carson-Newman 3

Carson-Newman got timely knocks to take the lead in the bottom of  the third.  Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) led off the inning with an eight-pitch walk.  She moved to third on a Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) double up the left field line to give the Eagles a pair of runners in scoring position with no one out. 

Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) delivered with a line drive sacrifice fly to right. Sohm raced home to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. 

That lead would be short-lived.  Carson-Newman's streak of six straight games without an error came to an end  in costly fashion in the top of the fourth.  Kaylee Cook broke up Rager's perfect game by reaching on an error at third to start the inning.  Catawba loaded the bases with one out with a bunt single and a walk.  Leah Huggins then hit a ground ball to first.  Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) came home with it to try to get the lead runner.  Her throw sailed high and allowed two unearned runs to score to give Catawba the lead.

The Eagles wasted little time in leveling things back up. Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) homered for the fifth time this year.  She went yard to left off a 1-1 pitch to tie it at 2-2 to lead off the bottom of the fourth. 

Catawba countered back in the top of the fifth.  Sydney Goertzen led off the inning with a bloop single to right. Cook slapped a line drive into the left center field gap with Carson-Newman's outfield playing in.  Cook tripled to score Goertzen.  Cook tried to score on the play, but was retired at the plate 8-6-1-2.

Carson-Newman countered in the bottom of the fifth.  Sohm led off the inning with a nine-pitch walk before stealing second.  Rinus drove her home with a gap-shot triple to the left center alleyway. 

The see-saw battled continued in the top of the sixth.  The Indians scored three times off a fielder's choice from reigning SAC Player of the Week Carlee Brawley and RBI triples from Sierrah McCarthy and Goertzen.  That put Catawba up 6-3.

Carson-Newman wouldn't threaten the rest of the way. 

Madison Hunter notched the win in relief for Catawba. She worked three innings of no-hit, shutout relief work to improve to 6-3 on the year.  She only walked two and struck out three.  Preston Ellenberg got the start for Catawba.  She went four innings in the start, gave up five hits and three runs.

Rager lost a third straight game in the circle to fall to 7-3.  She gave up six hits and six runs, four of which were earned.  However, of the six hits she allowed, four were for extra bases.  Rager struck out seven and walked two.

GAME TWO: Catawba 8, No. 9 Carson-Newman 7

The Indians brought the offense back to life quickly in the second.  Cook led off the game with an infield single to short, stole second and moved to third on a muffed throw at first.  It set the table for Taylor Martin to drive her in, which she did with a base hit that bounced into fair ground off the third-base bag.  That knock staked Catawba to a 1-0 lead. 

Carson-Newman wasted little time in responding.  Rinus led off the game with her third homer of the year, a solo bomb to straight away center, to tie the game at 1-1.  Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) followed with a double off the wall in left. She moved to third on a Rager ground out and gave C-N a 2-1 lead off a KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) single through the right side of the infield. 

The Eagles added insurance in the bottom of the second.  Peyton Bacon (Greeneville, Tenn.) led off the inning with a single down the left field line.  Natalie Lankster (Hendersonville, Tenn.) moved Bacon to second with a ground out to the circle. Bacon took third with a stolen base.  She scored on a smash by Fiessinger off Catawba's first baseman Sierrah McCarthy allowed Bacon to race home and give C-N a 3-1 lead. 

Catawba responded in the top of the fourth to tie things up.  Leah Huggins scored on a wild pitch.  With runners on the corners and one out, Goertzen singled back up the box to level it at three apiece.  Catawba sent eight to the plate in the inning, but only scored twice and left the bases loaded.

The Eagles got timely knocks to retake the lead in the bottom of the inning.  A walk for Lankster and a bunt single for Sohm gave the Eagles two base runners without an out.  Rinus capitalized with a Baltimore Chop over the head of the Indians' first baseman to plate Lankster.  After a pop up, Rager produced an RBI ground out to third to set C-N in front 5-3.  The Eagles then got some two-out magic from Levi.  The junior clobbered her team-leading sixth home run of the year into the pine trees in left.  That gave C-N a 7-3 lead. 

That lead would be short-lived.  Catawba struck five times in the top of the sixth.  Defensive miscues aided the Indians rally.  Four of the runs that crossed were unearned.  Huggins gave the Indians the lead with a two-out single through the left side.

It would be all Catawba would need to secure the win.  Hunter closed up shop with three relief innings of one-hit, shutout ball to improve to 7-3 on the year.  The lone hit she allowed was a double to Fiessinger in the sixth. 

Rinus took the loss to fall to 6-2.  She allowed a season-high 12 hits. 

The Eagles hit the road Wednesday for a doubleheader at Anderson.  First pitch is at 2 p.m. 

Graves adds seven for 2019
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