VIDEO: Michael Graves Interview
VIDEO: Allison Rager Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – In spite of a season-high six errors between the two games, Carson-Newman (22-7) and a few timely knocks to sweep North Greenville (21-20) with two one-run wins Wednesday at the Vickee Kazee-Hollifield Softball Complex.
The Eagles won in game one in nine inning 1-0 on an RBI fielder's choice from Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) on a play aided by obstruction before tallying a 4-3 win in the nightcap.
The wins propel Carson-Newman to a 15-0 record in non-conference play, the Eagles second unbeaten record in play outside the league in program history. The 1993 team also finished non-conference play 15-0.
"I'm as disappointed as you can possibly be and win two ball games," Carson-Newman head softball coach Michael Graves said. "Anytime you can get a win, it's a good thing. However, this was the first time all year, our defense let us down. We'll get after it tomorrow and fix it. We like to think we're top 20 in the country. To be top 20 in the country, you have to be perfect defensively."
Carson-Newman made four errors in the nightcap, including a pair in the top of the seventh that allowed North Greenville to get within a run and bring the tying into scoring position. The four errors are the most Carson-Newman has made in a game since April 21, 2018 when the Eagles made four errors in a loss in last year's regular season finale to Catawba.
Still, Carson-Newman got solid to spectacular pitching from Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). The reigning South Atlantic Conference Pitcher of the Week Rager grabbed a win, a save and tallied the second most strikeouts in her career with 11 in a complete-game, nine-inning five-hit shutout in game one. Rinus tallied a win with seven Ks in game two.
"I got ahead in the count and had good control of my pitches today," Rager said. "I know my teammates can hit the ball and we have a good hitting team. However, when we're not putting things together at the plate, then I've got to do my best to not give up any runs so we can take any lead that we can get."
GAME ONE: Carson-Newman 1, North Greenville 0 (nine innings)
In a game bereft of offense, Carson-Newman walked it off against North Greenville on an obstruction call.
In the first nine-inning game for Carson-Newman since a 7-4 loss to Pfeiffer in the 2017 Southeast Regional, Carson-Newman took a 1-0 nine-inning victory. Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) had the game-winning RBI fielder's choice.
Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) started the bottom of the ninth with a double down the left field line. A pinch-running Grace Laws (Palmersville, Tenn.) moved to third on a Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) sacrifice.
Cooper then came to the plate she knocked a 1-0 pitch on a ground ball to the right side of the circle. Laws got a late break and came home a step late. NGU second baseman Josie Reed appeared to have recorded a 4-2 putout at the plate for the second out of the inning, but home plate umpire Kenny Rogers called obstruction, putting the result in the win column for the Eagles.
Rager hurled the complete-game gem for C-N to improve to 12-4. She struck out 11, the second most in her career, and didn't surrender a free base on the day. NGU had five hits on her. It's the first extra-inning complete game shutout by an Eagle since Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) fired 8.0 innings in a 1-0 shutout of Limestone last year.
Callie Richards was a hard-luck loser, falling to 9-10. She gave up seven hits and struck out five.
Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.) tallied her fourth multi-hit effort in five games. However, the Eagles were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-15 with runners on base.
GAME TWO: Carson-Newman 4, North Greenville 3
Carson-Newman got the offense on track in the bottom of the third. Carson-Newman got the inning rolling with a leadoff walk for Sohm and a single through the left side for Rinus. Fiessinger loaded the bases with an infield single to short.
KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) drove in the go ahead run when she got hit for the 46th time in her career.
Rager kept the party rolling with an RBI single back up the middle before Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) rounded out the scoring with a sacrifice fly to right to give C-N a 3-0 advantage.
North Greenville countered in the top of the fourth. A one-out walk and a single from Josie Reed and Taylor Koon gave the Crusaders a pair of base runners. A foul out to right moved the lead runner Koon over to third. She then came in to score on a bloop single to right center from Savannah Small to bring the Crusaders within two, 3-1. The Crusaders left the bases loaded in the frame.
The Eagles got that run back in the bottom of the fifth. C-N loaded the bases with a single to center from Levi, a walk to Caldwell and a single up the middle from Cooper. With two out, Valerie Seay (Cross Plain, Tenn.) knocked a brace through the hole at short to plate Levi and stretch the lead back to three, 4-1. Carson-Newman left the bases loaded in the inning.
North Greenville took advantage of two Carson-Newman errors in the top of the seventh to score two runs and get the tying run in scoring position. However, Rager entered in the circle to get the final out with a ground out to second and the save. The save was the second of her career.
Rinus got the win in the circle to improve to 9-3. She gave up three runs, only one of which was earned. Rinus struck out seven, walked two and allowed seven hits.
Jaelyn Griffin took the loss to fall to 11-9. She gave up three hits and three runs in a 2.0-inning start. Bailey Pace fired the final 4.0 innings in relief. She gave up five hits and a run.
Rinus tallied the 40th multi-hit effort of her career at the plate.
Carson-Newman gets back at it Saturday at Wingate. First pitch the Bulldogs is set for 1 p.m.