Mercer's Danielle Castleberry (left), ETSU's Kelsey Chernak (center) and Chattanooga's Emma Sturdivant (right).
Photo Courtesy of Frank Mattia/
ETSU, Mercer, UTC Victorious on First Day of SoCon Tourney
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 05/10/2017
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No. 3 ETSU Blanks No. 6 Western Carolina, 7-0

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Third-seeded ETSU shut out the sixth-seeded Western Carolina Catamounts, 7-0, in Wednesday's finale of the Southern Conference Softball Championship at UTC's Frost Stadium. The Bucs were led by senior pitcher Lindsey Fadnek, who held the Catamount offense scoreless through five innings before Sharlene Godoy, also a senior, entered the game in the sixth inning to relieve Fadnek and held Western Carolina scoreless.

The Bucs improved to 26-24 on the season and will face No. 7 Chattanooga at 3 p.m. on Thursday in the winner's bracket. The Catamounts fell to 17-29 overall and will challenge the second-seeded Paladins in Thursday's opening game – a must-win – at 10 a.m.

ETSU got on the board in the second inning with two outs after a Taylor Carter double to right-center field. Catcher Kylie Toler, who went 2-for-2 at the plate today, went on to triple to right-center to easily score Carter. With Toler on third base, Kelsey Chernak also found the gap in right-center field, knocking home Toler and giving the Bucs a 2-0 lead.

The Catamounts tried to respond to the Bucs' early two-run lead in the top of the third after first baseman Shaina Reed was walked by Fadnek before advancing to second Cheyenne Mathews sacrifice bunt. Reed went on to steal third with two outs, but Fadnek forced Western Carolina's Hunter Gibbons to fly out to centerfield to end the inning, leaving Reed stranded on third base.

The Bucs would put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fourth inning after recording seven straight hits and scoring five runs to push the ETSU lead to 7-0. A Chernak single to right field would score Bucs' designated player Malloree Schurr, who was on second base. Following Chernak's single, ETSU's Mykeah Johnson singled to third base, advancing Cherank to second. ETSU second baseman Nikki Grupp then singled through the left side, which allowed Cherank and and Toler to score and extend the ETSU lead to 5-0.  After Grupp's single, 2017 SoCon Player of the Year Danielle Knoetze singled to left field to collect her two RBIs of the game, while knocking in Grupp and Johnson.

No. 7 Chattanooga Upsets No. 2 Furman, 5-4

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Jesslyn Stockard's two-run home run highlighted a five-run third inning for Chattanooga and proved to be the difference as the seventh-seeded Mocs downed No. 2 seed Furman, 5-4, in the second game of the opening day of the Southern Conference Softball Championship at Frost Stadium on Wednesday.

With the win, the Mocs improve to 15-36 on the season and will advance to face the winner of Thursday's contest between No. 3 ETSU and No. 6 Western Carolina. The Paladins fall to 31-21 and will play in Friday's opening game at 10 a.m. in a must-win scenario against the loser of game three between the Bucs and Catamounts.

Hayleigh Weissenbach and Aly Walker gave Chattanooga a 2-0 lead with back-to-back doubles in the top of the third with one out after J.J. Hamill opened the frame with a walk. An Ashley Conner single and Furman error plated a third run before Stockard launched a towering two-run blast to right field to up the Mocs' lead to 5-0.

Furman rallied with two runs in the bottom of the third and bottom of the fourth. Brittany Houston opened the Paladin half of the third with a walk and moved to third base on Caroline Cash's single. Cash swiped second base and Houston scored as the throw to second sailed into center field. Courtney Jacobs followed with a double into the gap to score Cash, but Furman stranded Jacobs on second.

In the fourth, Elise Smith started a two-out rally with a single through the right side. Taylor Vahle lined a double to the left field fence to score Smith from first base and Vahle came around to score when Houston blooped a two-out single down the right field line.

Celie Hudson, who fanned eight batters and walked just two in a complete-game effort for the Mocs, held Furman scoreless the rest of the way to improve to 6-9. She allowed four runs on eight hits in seven innings.

Junior Lindsey Bert, the 2017 Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year, surrendered five runs on seven hits over seven innings to suffer the loss for Furman and fall to 18-12 on the season. Bert walked two batters and struck out five.

Amy Lewis tallied two hits for the Mocs, while Conner went 2-for-2 with a walk. Bert and Houston each registered a base hit and base on balls for the Paladins.

Mercer Edges Samford in First Game of SoCon Tourney

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Fifth-seeded Mercer earned a 5-3 victory over No. 4 seed Samford on Wednesday in the first game of the 2017 Southern Conference Softball Championship at Frost Stadium on the campus of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

With the win, the Bears improve to 25-29 on the season and will advance to face top-seeded UNCG at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Bulldogs fall to 22-35 and will play at 8 p.m. on Thursday in a must-win scenario.

The contest was headlined by the by a five-run fifth inning for the Bears along with freshman pitcher Stella Preston, who relieved Mercer starting pitcher Megan Bilgri in the fifth inning. Bilgri recorded her eighth career save of the season, which makes her tied for first in Mercer history and tied for second in the SoCon record book. Preston walked her first batter, but retired the next eight consecutive opposing batters.

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Samford junior outfielder Shelby Maze, a First Team All-SoCon selection, led the inning off with a bunt single. Maze then moved to second base on an infield single by freshman infielder Whitney Hinton, and then to third base on a Bears' error. Maze went on to score on the throw when Hinton stole second base. Hinton later scored on a single by Jackson, giving Samford a 2-0 lead.

Mercer would cut the Samford lead to one run in the top of the second inning as Mercer red-shirt junior Caroline Taylor blasted a solo shot over the left-center field wall with one out, giving Taylor her sixth home run of the season and 31st of her career.

After a scoreless third inning, Samford added to its 2-1 lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sophomore outfielder Kelsey Royalty doubled and advanced to third base on an error with one out to get things started. Maze then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to drive in Royalty for a 3-1 Samford advantage.

The Bears responded in the top of the fifth inning capitalizing an Emma Andrew walk, followed by back-to-back Samford errors, which loaded the bases for Mercer with no outs. Mercer junior outfielder Meghan Rud knocked in Andrew on a line drive to right field. Bears' freshman outfielder Abby Walsh then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to drive in Shiala Warren, a sophomore infielder for Mercer, to knot the score at 3-3. Mercer senior utility player Taylor Rodgers later singled to drive in freshman Danielle Castleberry, to extend the Mercer lead to 4-3. Junior third baseman Quirisa Mauga then hit a sacrifice fly to left field, which brought home Rud to make the score 5-3.

Mercer (25-29, 9-9 SoCon) will face the top-seed UNCG Spartans in Thursday's second contest at 12:30 p.m.

Samford (22-35, 10-8 SoCon) will learn their fate on Thursday as the Bulldogs will take on the losing team of game six, which is slated for Thursday at 3 p.m.

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