No. 4 Mercer rallies for win over No. 7 Western Carolina
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – No. 4 seed Mercer scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and came away with a 7-4 win over No. 7 seed Western Carolina at the Southern Conference Softball Championship at Jim Frost Stadium on Friday. No. 4 Mercer (26-28) will take on No. 5 ETSU (22-26-2) later this afternoon. The win was the 300th career win for Mercer head coach Stephanie DeFeo.
With two outs in the top of the second inning, Hunter Gibbons drew a walk and came around to score on a single from Erica Hayes, giving Western Carolina a 1-0 lead. Mercer came to the plate swinging in the bottom half of the inning as Micayla Rood and Allie Jones singled and Danielle Castleberry laid down a sac bunt, reaching on an error. With bases loaded and no outs, the Catamounts induced a ground ball and got the out at home before striking out the next batter.
With the bases still loaded, the Bears plated a run as Kenlie Harvey drew a walk and Jones scored. Western Carolina pitcher Shaina Reed struck out Bailey Huneycutt to escape the inning with minimal damage.
With one out in the top of the second, Western Carolina sophomore Addie Pate sent a ball flying over the left field fence for her second home run of the season.
Amanda Schwartz was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom half of the inning and moved to second on a bunt single by Rood. Schwartz advanced to third as Jones reached on a fielder’s choice and a single by Castleberry down the left field line brought her in to score and again evened the score.
Western Carolina used three hits and an error to plate two more in the top of the third inning. With two on, Gibbons reached on a fielder’s choice and Hayes singled, moving Reed to third and Gibbons to second. Huneycutt, up next, drew a bases-loaded walk and Reed scored, making it 3-2. Gibbons scored on an error and put Western Carolina in front, 4-2, but the Bears got out of the bases-loaded jam with a line out to right.
Mercer got those runs back and then some in the home half of the fourth. Laurenne Sanchez drew a pinch-hit walk and quickly advanced to third on back-to-back singles by Rood and Jones. Sanchez scored on a wild pitch to pull the Bears within one. Castleberry, a first-team all-conference selection, singled up the middle, scoring Rood and Jones. Castleberry advanced to second on a ground out and came around to score behind Megan Lane on a double by Harvey.
Mercer had the slight edge in hits, 10 to eight. Rood (3-for-4), Castleberry (2-for-3) and Harvey (2-for-2) led the Bears offensively, as Castleberry and Harvey each tallied three RBIs. Hayes led Western Carolina, going 3-for-4.
Lynn Gardner earned the win for Mercer and Reed took the loss.
Top 1st – Western Carolina 1, Mercer 0: Hunter Gibbons walked and then scored on an Erica Hayes single.
Bottom 1st – Western Carolina 1, Mercer 1: Kenlie Harvey drew a bases-loaded walk.
Top 2nd – Western Carolina 2, Mercer 1: Addie Pate hit a solo home run to left field.
Bottom 2nd – Western Carolina 2, Mercer 2: Amanda Schwartz was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a bunt by Rood and to third on a fielder’s choice before scoring on a Danielle Castleberry single.
Top 3rd – Western Carolina 3, Mercer 2: With two on, Hunter Gibbons reached on a fielder’s choice and Erica Hayes singled, moving Reed to third and Gibbons to second. Huneycutt, up next, drew a bases-loaded walk and Reed scored.
Western Carolina 4, Mercer 2: Gibbons scored on an error and put Western Carolina in front 4-2.
Bottom 4th - Western Carolina 4, Mercer 3: Laurenne Sanchez drew a pinch-hit walk and quickly advanced to third on back-to-back singles by Rood and Jones before scoring on a wild pitch.
Mercer 5, Western Carolina 4: Danielle Castleberry, a first-team all-conference selection, singled up the middle, scoring Rood and Jones.
Mercer 7, Western Carolina 4: Castleberry advanced to second on a ground out and came around to score behind Megan Lane on a double by Harvey.
No. 3 Chattanooga Bests No. 1 UNCG, Advances to Championship
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – No. 3 seed Chattanooga upset top-seed UNCG 3-1 at the Southern Conference Softball Championship at Jim Frost Stadium on Friday afternoon. Chattanooga (36-14), now 3-0 in the tournament, advances to the championship for the 16th time in league history and will face either UNCG, ETSU or Mercer on Saturday.
UNCG got on the board first in the pitchers; duel. With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Melanie Darges doubled to left center field and Monica Pepe drove her in with a single. The Spartans threatened more damage after a Delaney Cumbie single put two on base, but Chattanooga’s Celie Hudson, the 2019 SoCon Pitcher of the Year, struck out Marisa Sholtes to get out of the jam.
First-team All-SoCon pitcher Stephanie Bryden held Chattanooga to just one hit, a double by Halie Williamson in the second inning, before the sixth inning. With two outs in the sixth, Emily Coltharp, the 2019 SoCon Freshman of the Year, reached on an error. Aly Walker, the right fielder, took the fourth pitch of her at bat to straight-away center field, giving Chattanooga its first lead of the contest.
UNCG put a runner on base in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a walk by Darges, but the Spartans were unable to get her across. In the top of the seventh, Williamson led off the inning with her second double of the contest, roping the first pitch of the at bat down the left field line. Catcher Amanda Beltran laid down a sacrifice bunt and Makenzi Grider, who entered to run for Williamson, moved to third. Cameren Swafford entered to pinch hit for Gracey Kruse and hit a sacrifice fly to left as Grider tagged and scored to an insurance run for the Mocs.
Chattanooga got the first two batters out in the bottom of the seventh, striking out Cumbie and forcing Sholtes to line out to left field. Bryden reached on an error by the shortstop, but Chattanooga got Gabi Howard to ground into a fielder’s choice and the Mocs sealed the deal.
UNCG totaled four hits but left nine on base, while Chattanooga had three hits thanks to Williamson’s two doubles and Walker’s home run. Hudson and Bryden each went the distance in the circle.
Bottom 2nd – UNCG 1, Chattanooga 0: Melanie Darges doubled to left center field and Monica Pepe drove her in with a single.
Top 6th - Chattanooga 2, UNCG 1: Emily Cotharp reached on an error and Aly Walker blasted a home run to center field.
Top 7th – Chattanooga 3, UNCG 1: Halie Williamson led off the inning with a double. Amanda Beltran laid down a sacrifice bunt and Makenzi Grider, who entered to run for Williamson, moved to third. Cameren Swafford hit a sacrifice fly to score Grider.