SALISBURY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (28-10) overcame a seven-run deficit only for Anderson (32-20) to score six unanswered runs to deny the Eagles a third consecutive SAC tournament title and a 12th overall.
The Trojans prevailed 13-11, aided by four Carson-Newman errors and seven unearned runs, en route to winning the highest scoring title game in league history and their second tournament title overall.
"We dug ourselves a hole early and battled out of it," Carson-Newman head softball coach Michael Graves said. "We were very resilient and battled for seven innings. We are gonna go back to work and get ready for regionals."
Defensive miscues proved highly costly out of the gates for the Eagles. Anderson scored seven unearned runs in the top of the first off a quartet of Eagle errors. The Trojans started off the game with two straight singles from Joshlyn Martin and Mattie Hamilton. On Hamilton's knock to center, Lacie Rinus (Murfreeesboro, Tenn.) mishandled the ball allowing Martin to race home and score the game's first run.
Two throwing errors at third, and a fielding error at second brought in four more runs, while Anderson rounded out the scoring with a Martin double to left center plated the final two unearned runs of the inning to stake Anderson to a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles would waste no time in mounting a rally. In the bottom of the first, C-N got a run back thanks to an RBI fielder's choice from Allison Rager.
C-N piled on four more runs in the bottom of the second to cut the deficit to two, 7-5. Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) and Natalie Lankster (Hendersonville, Tenn.) started the inning with back-to-back singles. Then, Leah Sohm (Corryton, Tenn.) reached on a SAC bunt attempt that the Trojans second baseman muffed the throw covering first. That allowed Cooper to race home to pull the Eagles within six.
Rinus reloaded the bases with a bunt single before Harlie Duncan issued a five-pitch free pass to Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) to walk in a run. Haley Caldwell (Kenova, W.Va.) trimmed the deficit to two with a two-run single past the second base man.
The Eagles used another four-run frame in the bottom of the third to take the lead. Carson-Newman loaded the bases with a walk and two singles. After a fielder's choice retired a potential run at the plate, Carson-Newman put together a massive two-out rally to take the lead.
Caldwell plastered a double back up the middle to score two before fellow West Virginian Rager looped a single down the left field line to score twice more and give C-N the lead.
The Eagles would hold that 9-7 advantage through five before Anderson responded. The Trojans got a pair of one-out base runners in the top of the sixth off two infield singles. After a fielder's choice, Kayson Boatner tanked a 2-1 pitch to right center to put the Trojans up 10-9.
The Trojans then added insurance in the top of the seventh with four straight two out hits, including a pair of doubles and a pair of singles, to stretch the advantage to 13-9.
Carson-Newman fought off its final strike trying to rally. Sohm hit a two-out single to short off a 2-2 pitch before Rinus brought the Eagles within two thanks to a two-run home run to right off a 2-2 pitch. However, Caldwell flied out to right to end the game.
Martin led the Trojans at the plate with a four-hit day. She drove in two. Hamilton and Boatner also tallied multi-hit and multi-RBI efforts.
Rinus and Caldwell led Carson-Newman's attack with a four-hit and four-RBI day, respectively. Rager also drove in three runs.
Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) extended her hitting streak out to 15 straight games.
Rager was a hard-luck loser for the Eagles. Of the 10 runs she surrendered, only three were earned in her 5.2-inning start. She falls to 15-7 with the loss.
Kayla Pepper improved to 15-13 with the win in relief. She gave up five hits and two runs in 4.1 innings.
Carson-Newman will almost assuredly be in the NCAA regionals, which begin May 9. The question is whether the Eagles did enough to bypass LMU for hosting duties. The NCAA softball selection show is set for Monday, May 6.