No. 5 Samford Ousts No. 2 Mercer
GREENSBORO, N.C. – No. 5 seed Samford advanced to the SoCon Softball Championship quarterfinals for the third straight year with a 10-6 win over No. 2 seed Mercer on Friday morning. The Bulldogs (19-37) will now take a short break before facing Furman at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
Samford got on the board quickly thanks to an early two-run home run in the first inning by Lexie Higgins before the Bulldogs scored two more in the top of the third, thanks to two hits and a sacrifice groundout, to take a 4-0 lead.
The Bears got one run back in the bottom of the third. Laurenne Sanchez took off for second in a steal attempt but Samford quickly threw to second base to get Sanchez in a rundown, allowing Shaila Warren to steal home after the throw at the plate was late, making it a 4-1 game after three complete.
In the top of the fifth inning the Bulldogs started to pull away, taking an 8-2 lead after scoring four runs on three hits and an error. Mercer was able to get two runs back in the bottom of the frame thanks to a Caroline Taylor home run and a double by Quirisa Mauga. The homer gave Taylor the Mercer career record with 47 and her 16 home runs in 2018 is a single-season program record.
Samford continued to stay hot at the plate and tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth inning, extending its lead to 10-4. Mercer also added two runs in the sixth inning, courtesy of a home run to center field by Meghan Rud, but those would be the last runs scored in the game as Samford held on for the win. The home run was the second of the year for the senior but the first to exit the park.
The Bulldogs tallied 10 hits in the contest and were led by Brzozoski’s 3-for-3 effort. Samford had four finish with two RBIs while Barnes and Higgins scored three runs each. Taylor DeCelles earned her ninth win in the circle, striking out three in seven innings.
The Bears, who finished with eight hits total, were led by Andrew and Rud who both recorded two. Mercer’s season comes to a close with a 33-19 overall record.
Top 1st – Samford 2, Mercer 0: Ashlyn Barnes scored from first on a home run to left field by Lexie Higgins with one out
Top 3rd – Samford 3, Mercer 0: Ashlyn Barnes scored from second on a single up the middle by Ryan Brzozoski with one out
Top 3rd – Samford 4, Mercer 0: Madison Couch scored from third on a groundout to the shortstop by Hannah Trombley for the second out
Bottom 3rd – Samford 4, Mercer 1: Shaila Warren stole home with two outs
Bottom 4th – Samford 4, Mercer 2: Emma Andrew scored from second on a fielding error by the second baseman with one out
Top 5th – Samford 6, Mercer 2: Lexie Higgins scored from third and Ryan Brzozoski scored from second on a double down the left field line by Mekhi Mayfield with one out
Top 5th – Samford 7, Mercer 2: Hannah Trombley scored from third on a sacrifice fly to center field by Whitney Hinton for the second out
Top 5th – Samford 8, Mercer 2: Mekhi Mayfield scored from third on a single to right field by Kelsey Royalty with two outs
Bottom 5th – Samford 8, Mercer 3: Caroline Taylor hit a home run to center field with one out
Bottom 5th – Samford 8, Mercer 4: Quirisa Mauga scored from second on a double down the left field line by Emma Andrew with two outs
Top 6th – Samford 9, Mercer 4: Ashlyn Barnes scored from third on a sacrifice fly to right field by Ryan Brzozoski for the second out
Top 6th – Samford 10, Mercer 4: Lexie Higgins scored from third on a double to left field by Hannah Trombley with two outs
Bottom 6th – Samford 10, Mercer 6: Micayla Rood scored from first on a home run to center field by Meghan Rud with one out
No. 1 UNCG Advances to Championship Game
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Regular-season champion and No. 1 seed UNCG advanced to the SoCon Softball Championship game on Friday afternoon with a 6-3 win over No. 6 ETSU. The Spartans (45-11) will be making just their fourth championship game appearance on Saturday and first since 2014. The Bucs (18-26), who entered on a five-game winning streak, will now await the winner between Furman and Samford and return to the diamond at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Spartans wasted little time scoring in the contest as Rachael McClaskey launched a home run to right field to score Rebecca Kale and give the hosts a 2-0 lead. The 2-0 deficit marked the first time since 2016 that ETSU trailed in a SoCon tournament game. UNCG extended that lead to five with its second and third home runs of the day, this time by Kayleigh Willis and Marisa Sholtes. Five of the Spartans’ six runs in the game came via home runs.
ETSU showed fight in its last at bat. With runners on first and second, Kylie Toler cut the Spartans’ lead in half with one swing as the sophomore launched a three-run home run over the left field fence. That prompted SoCon Coach of the Year Janelle Breneman to bring All-SoCon first team selection Alicia Bazonski back into the game. The Bucs had runners on first and second when Nikki Grupp smoked a ball down the right field line but a diving catch by Alexis Overdiep secured the 6-3 victory for the Spartans.
UNCG finished with seven hits in the game including a 2-for-3 effort by All-SoCon first teamer Sholtes. Sholtes and McClaskey each drove in two runs. Bazonski finished with 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering four hits and striking out one.
ETSU was led by Tiffany Laughren as the junior finished with two hits and one run scored, while Kelly Schmidt threw 4 1/3 innings for the Bucs, fanning three.
Bottom 2nd – UNCG 2, ETSU 0: Rebecca Kale scored from first on a home run to right field by Rachael McClaskey with two outs
Bottom 4th – UNCG 3, ETSU 0: Kayleigh Willis hit a solo home run to left center field with no outs
Bottom 5th – UNCG 5, ETSU 0: Jasmine Palmer scored from second on a home run to left center field by Marisa Sholtes with one out
Bottom 5th – UNCG 6, ETSU 0: Rachael McClaskey scored from third on a wild pitch
Top 7th – UNCG 6, ETSU 3: Tiffany Laughren scored from second and Kelsey Smith scored from second on a home run to left field by Kylie Toler with one out
No. 3 Furman Walks Off on Pereira’s Single
GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the second time in as many days, No. 3 seed Furman walked off in an elimination game to stay alive in the 2018 SoCon Softball Championship. The Paladins (41-14) defeated No. 5 seed Samford 1-0 on a walk-off single to center field by redshirt freshman Cammy Pereira, advancing to face ETSU for a spot in the championship game at 6 p.m. on Friday.
In a game that featured just five hits, neither team could get much of anything going offensively until the Paladins strung together three hits in the final frame. Hannah Reynolds led things off for Furman in the seventh inning, lacing a single up the middle. Caroline Nageotte, who entered as a pinch runner in the same situation on Thursday, advanced to second on a bunt single by Candace Johnson and then moved to third after Caroline Cash drew a walk. That brought Pereira to the plate in a pinch-hit situation and the redshirt freshman needed four pitches before hitting a single over the center fielder’s head, allowing Nageotte to scamper home and clinch the win.
SoCon Pitcher of the Year Lindsey Bert picked up her 28th win of the season, throwing a complete game with eight strikeouts. Samford’s Taylor DeCelles pitched 6 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and scattered five hits. The Bulldogs’ season comes to an end with a 19-38 overall record.
Bottom 7th – Furman 1, Samford 0: Caroline Nageotte scored from third on a single to center field by Cammy Pereira with one out
No. 6 ETSU Advances to Second-Consecutive Championship Game
GREENSBORO, N.C. – It would take an extra inning to decide the final team in the 2018 SoCon Championship game before No. 6 seed ETSU clinched the 4-1 win over No. 3 Furman, advancing to its second consecutive championship game. The Bucs, the defending tournament champions, are the lowest seed to advance to the final since 2007 when No. 7 seed Furman took home the title. They are the first six seed in conference history to advance to the championship game.
Each team had chances early in the game beginning with Furman in the bottom of the first inning. Lauren Duggar led off with a single to left field and then stole second. That brought Casey Bigham to the plate who laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Duggar to third. Lindsey Bert then reached on a fielder’s choice but Duggar was thrown out a home by the shortstop and ended the threat.
ETSU had its best early scoring chance in the fourth inning after Kelly Warren doubled down the left field line. Warren advanced to third after Nikki Grupp grounded out but Bert struck out the next batter and then forced a fly out to keep the score 0-0.
The Paladins broke the tie in the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo home run to left field by Hannah Reynolds but Madison Ogle forced a ground out and a pop up to end the inning and keep the Furman lead to one.
The Bucs answered with a run of their own in their next at bat. Tiffany Laughren led off with a double to center field and advanced to third one batter later when Kelsey Smith hit a grounder that the third baseman could not handle, putting runners at the corners. Following a pop up to second base, Kelsey Chernak hit a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Laughren to score and even things at 1-1.
Although both teams threatened to score, the game headed to extra’s with things tied at 1-1. ETSU wasted little time in extra innings, scoring three runs in the top of the eighth with one swing from Taylor Wright to take a 4-1 lead. The bases-clearing, two-out double was Wright’s lone hit in the contest.
ETSU finished the game with seven hits, including two by Laughren and Kylie Toler. Madison Ogle was solid in the circle for the Bucs, throwing her second complete game in as many days with seven strikeouts to earn her 13th win of the season.
Furman finishes the season with a 41-15 overall record.
Bottom 4th – Furman 1, ETSU 0: Hannah Reynolds hit a solo home run to left field with one out
Top 5th – Furman 1, ETSU 1: Tiffany Laughren scored from third on a sacrifice fly to right field by Kelsey Chernak for the second out
Top 8th – ETSU 4, Furman 1: Lauren Lee scored from third, Kelly Warren scored from second and Nikki Grupp scored from first on a single to right center field by Taylor Wright with two outs
2018 SoCon Softball Championship
UNCG Softball Stadium ▪ Greensboro, North Carolina
Wednesday, May 9
Game 1: No. 4 Chattanooga 3, No. 5 Samford 1
Game 2: No. 2 Mercer 8, No. 7 Western Carolina 7
Game 3: No. 6 ETSU 4, No. 3 Furman 1
Thursday, May 10
Game 4: No. 3 Furman 3, No. 7 Western Carolina 1
Game 5: No. 1 UNCG 4, No. 4 Chattanooga 1
Game 6: No. 6 ETSU 5, No. 2 Mercer 3
Game 7: No. 3 Furman 9, No. 4 Chattanooga 1
Friday, May 11
Game 8: No. 5 Samford 10, No. 2 Mercer 6
Game 9: No. 1 UNCG 6, No. 6 ETSU 3
Game 10: No. 3 Furman 1, No. 5 Samford 0
Game 11: No. 6 ETSU 4, No. 3 Furman 1
Saturday, May 12
Game 12: No. 1 UNCG vs. No. 6 ETSU, 1 p.m., ESPN+
Game 13: IF NECESSARY, 3 p.m., ESPN+
All times are Eastern.