Samford Escapes No. 5 Mercer, 4-3, to Advance to Saturday's Championship Round
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The fourth-seeded Samford softball team earned a win over No. 5 Mercer in the Southern Conference Tournament Friday to advance to Saturday's championship round. The Bulldogs defeated Mercer, 4-3.
Samford improves to 25-35 and will take on ETSU Saturday at 1 p.m. (ET). Samford will have to win two games over ETSU to claim a second-straight SoCon Tournament title.
Madison Couch went 3-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, driving in the game-winning run. Shelby Maze went 2-for-3 with two RBI. Maze had three hits on the day, giving her a school-record 89 hits for the season. She also stole a base in game one to give her 22 on the season, tying a school single-season record. Kelsey Royalty, Abby Sweeney and Abbie Miranda had two hits each for Samford in the Mercer game.
Grey Adams (12-14) once again earned the win in the circle for Samford. In the Mercer game, she tossed all 7.0 innings, giving up three runs on six hits to pick up her second win of the day.
For Mercer, Emma Andrew hit a two-run home run in a 1-for-3 performance. Danielle Castleberry went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Stella Preston (5-10) pitched the final inning, giving up one run on three hits to take the loss in the circle for the Bears.
Mercer jumped on top first with a run in the top of the second inning. Samford, however, took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Maze singled to drive in Miranda and Higgins for a 2-1 Samford lead.
Mercer took the lead back with two runs in the top of the third inning when Andrew hit her two-run homer for a 3-2 Bears' lead. Samford plated a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game at 3-3. Miranda singled to drive in Couch for Samford's third run of the game.
The Bulldogs scored the eventual game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Royalty reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning. Royalty then moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt, and third on a ground out. Couch then singled up the middle to drive in Royalty for a 4-3 Samford lead.Adams kept Mercer scoreless in the top of the seventh inning to secure the win for Samford.
Saturday's first game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. (ET) start. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Samford Knocks Off Top-Seeded UNCG, 3-1
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The fourth-seeded Samford Bulldogs eliminated the top-seeded UNCG Spartans, 3-1, in Friday's second contest of the day at Frost Stadium on the campus of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
UNCG claimed the first run of the elimination game in the first inning after Spartan second baseman Jasmine Palmer was walked by Samford's Grey Adams and advanced on an Alexis Overdiep infield single. Palmer and Overdiep both advanced on a Gabrielle Cubbage sacrifice bunt. UNCG first baseman Marisa Sholtes then flied out to right field, recording a sacrifice fly while scoring Palmer in the process.
Samford responded with a Kelsey Royalty home run – her fifth of the year – to right-center field in the top of the third to even the score, 1-1.
After a scoreless fourth inning, the Bulldogs broke out to a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth that was initiated by a Lexie Higgins one-out double to left-center field. The Spartans would then bring in Stephanie Bryden to relieve Alicia Bazonski, but the Bulldogs countered as Kelsey Royalty singled up the middle, scoring Higgins and advancing Royalty on the throw to home.
From there, the Spartans could not get the bats going. UNCG was held scoreless through the game's final six innings to end its tournament run.
With an infield single in the top of the seventh, Samford junior center fielder wrote her name atop of the Samford record book and became No. 2 in the SoCon record book, claiming the single season record after registering 87 hits this year. Maze surpassed former Bulldog Megan Dowdy, who posted 86 hits in 2015, in the Bulldogs' 9-8 win over Chattanooga on Thursday. The Morris, Alabama, native broke another Bulldog single season record in the seventh after stealing her 22nd base of the season.
UNCG ends its season at 29-24, bringing its first-ever SoCon regular season championship trophy back to Greensboro, North Carolina.
Ninth Inning RBI Double Lifts ETSU Past Mercer, 4-3
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – ETSU's Malloree Schurr launched a high-flying line drive off the left-center field wall with two outs and Bucs' catcher Kylie Toler on first base in the top of the ninth inning at Frost Stadium on Friday. Toler easily crossed home plate and was greeted by a pile of teammates as the Bucs went on to win the semifinal contest by a final score of, 4-3.
With the win, the Bucs improve to 28-24 on the season and advance to Saturday's championship, which is slated for 1 p.m. ETSU will take on the winner of Friday's final game, which will feature No. 5 Mercer and the winner of first-seeded UNCG and No. 4 Samford.
The Bucs did not waste any time getting on the scoreboard as Nikki Grupp – batting second for ETSU – launched her second home run of the season down the left field line with one out and a hitter's count of 3-1.
Mercer responded in the bottom of the second as Bears' third baseman Quirisa Mauga singled through the left side before advancing to second on an error by Bucs' starting pitcher Madison Ogle on a ball that that was hit by Megan Lane. Mauga and Lane would then advance to third and second, respectively on a wild pitch. Emma Andrew drove in Mauga on a sacrifice fly to left field. The Bears nearly took the lead after Shaila Warren singled on a hard-hit ball at Ogle, setting up Warren and Lane on first and third, respectively. Warren attempted to steal second, which prompted Bucs' catcher Kylie Toler to throw to second, but Bears' second baseman Danielle Castleberry disregarded Warren and immediately made a strong throw back to home to catch Lane stealing to end the inning.
ETSU would regain the lead in the top of the fourth after Taylor Carter hit a pop fly to center field with Grupp and 2017 SoCon Player of the Year Danielle Knoetze on second and first, respectively. Mercer center fielder Meghan Rud attempted to throw Grupp out at home, but the throw was short, which allowed Grupp to cross home plate easily.
The Bucs recorded their second home run of the game in the fifth inning on another shot of down the left field line, this time by Toler, to extend the ETSU lead to 3-1.
The game's third home run came in the bottom of the sixth as Mercer's Quirisa Mauga launched one over the left-center field wall, tying the game at 3-3. Mauga's two-run shot scored Taylor Miller and was the eighth homer by a SoCon player in the tournament.
A scoreless seventh inning forced the game into extra innings, which was proceeded by a scoreless eighth inning before Schurr connected on her game-winning hit.
ETSU's Lindsey Fadnek collected her third save of the season as the Bucs put themselves atop of the SoCon record book with 13 team saves this season.
Mercer's Quirisa Mauga, who leads the SoCon in RBI (44), tallied two RBIs today and set a career high with seven putouts and also tied her career high with two runs scored. Taylor Miller recorded her 32nd stolen base of the season, moving her into No. 2 in Mercer history for a single season and 10th in the SoCon record book. Meghan Rud posted her 74th hit to tie for fourth all-time in Bears' history.