SALISBURY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (27-9) got a combined shutout from Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) as the third-seeded Eagles powered past sixth-seeded Queens (22-15) 7-0 and into the semifinals of the South Atlantic Conference Championships.
The Eagles continue their quest for a third straight tournament title Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against Coker. That's a rematch of the last two SAC championship games.
In addition to moving the Eagles onward in the SAC tournament, the win also gives Carson-Newman its 13th victory this season over another regionally ranked foe.
"This was a total team effort with great defense, great pitching, and great at bats," Carson-Newman head softball coach Michael Graves said. "We are doing a phenomenal job of making pitchers throw strikes by not chasing out of the zone. The girls are relaxed and having fun and it is showing in our results. I'm beyond proud of each one of these girls."
Rager logged the win in the circle with five innings of three-hit shutout softball to improve to 15-6. Rinus fired the final two frames, giving up one hit.
Carson-Newman wasted little time in bouncing out to a lead. The Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the first before Queens could record an out. Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) led off the game with a knock back up the box before Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) got hit and Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) walked on nine pitches to put an Eagle on every bag.
KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) delivered a timely knock with a one-out single to right to score the first run of the game before Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.) sacrificed in the second run with a line out to right. The Eagles led 2-0 after one, but left two in scoring position in the frame.
The Eagles used small ball tactics to pad their lead in the second. Carson-Newman started the inning with a walk to Valerie Seay (Cross Plains, Tenn.) and an infield single to the pitcher from Leah Sohm (Knoxville, Tenn.). Rinus moved the pair over with a sacrifice bunt. That allowed Fiessinger to go opposite field with a poke through the left side to score another run and give C-N a 3-0 cushion. C-N loaded the bases with a Caldwell single, but a fielder's choice and a foul out ended the threat to leave the bases loaded.
Carson-Newman kept the party rolling in the fourth with a two-out rally. With runners on first and second and two out, Allison Rager (Elkview, W.Va.) looped a base hit to right off a 1-2 pitch to stretch the lead with to 4-0. Levi followed it up with a double off a 1-2 pitch to left center that cleared the bases and gave C-N a 6-0 lead.
Levi rounded out the Eagles' scoring with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Sydney Ditto, Kelly Winter, Sara Ingoldsby and Breanna Martinez collected the hits for the Royals. Queens only real offense threat came in the third when they had runners on second and third with two out. However, Rager got a foul out to right to squelch the threat.
Rager and Rinus combined to retire 14 of the final 15 batters in the game.
All-SAC pitcher Courtney Pearson took the loss for the Royals to drop to 14-5. The Eagles tallied nine hits off her in 3.2 innings. She gave up six runs, all earned. Shannnon McGuire allowed the other run. She gave up four hits in 2.1 innings.
The Eagles take on Coker in the SAC semifinals Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The winner of that game faces the winner of Lincoln Memorial and Anderson Sunday at 4.