GREENSBORO, N.C. – The No. 1 seed and 2018 regular-season champion UNCG claimed its first-ever Southern Conference Softball Championship on Saturday afternoon on its home field, defeating No. 6 seed ETSU 5-2. The Spartans won three straight games to claim the crown and will make just their second ever NCAA Regional appearance after earning the SoCon’s automatic berth.
UNCG (46-11) and ETSU met four times in 2018 with the Spartans claiming all four contests, including two in as many days. The Bucs, who made history as the first six seed to appear in the championship game, lost just twice in the tournament as they knocked off No. 2 seed Mercer and No. 3 Furman en route to the title game.
The Spartans, who had made three prior appearances in the championship game, are the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament since 2016. They are also the first since 2016 to win both the regular season and tournament crown.
ETSU’s Lauren Lee wasted no time in the game, connecting on a single to center field on the second pitch of the game. Lee was then out at second after a fielder’s choice by Kelly Warren. Warren then stole second base and advanced to third on a ground out by Nikki Grupp. That brought Taylor Wright to the plate, the hero of the Bucs eight-inning win over Furman on Friday, who once again delivered with a single to center field that allowed Warren to score and give the Bucs an early 1-0 lead. The two-out RBI was the fourth of the tournament for Wright.
In the bottom of the second, UNCG answered with a run of its own as Gabrielle Cubbage scored from second on a single to left center field by Rachael McClaskey with one out.
Things remained tied at 1-1 with neither team able to get anything going until the bottom of the fifth inning. Jasmine Palmer drew a leadoff walk and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Makenna Matthijs. All-SoCon first teamer Marisa Sholtes then singled through the left side and advanced on the throw to put Spartans on second and third with one out. ETSU ace Madison Ogle struck out the next UNCG batter for the second out, bringing Cubbage to the plate. The senior delivered, hitting a home run to left field to hand the Spartans a 4-1 lead. Kayleigh Willis kept things going for UNCG two pitches later, launching a home run to dead center to make it a four-run game. The Spartans, who had just two hits in the previous four innings, recorded three in the bottom of the fifth.
ETSU got one run back in its next at bat as Nikki Grupp scored from third on a single to right field by Tiffany Laughren but the Bucs were unable to push any more runs across as UNCG earned the 5-2 win.
The Spartans were led by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Alicia Bazonski who struck out three in a complete-game effort. The senior claimed her 19th win of the season and was joined on the All-Tournament team by McClaskey and Sholtes.
The Bucs placed a conference-high four on the All-Tournament team and outhit the Spartans in the loss. Wright led the Bucs with two hits and Ogle finished with seven strikeouts in six innings of work. ETSU’s season comes to an end with a 19-27 record.
UNCG will find out its NCAA tournament destination on Sunday at 10 p.m. (ET). The selection show will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Top 1st – ETSU 1, UNCG 0: Kelly Warren scored from third on a single to left center field by Taylor Wright with two outs
Bottom 2nd – ETSU 1, UNCG 1: Gabrielle Cubbage scored from second on a single to left center field by Rachael McClaskey with one out
Bottom 5th – UNCG 4, ETSU 1: Jasmine Palmer scored from third and Marisa Sholtes scored from second on a home run to left field by Gabrielle Cubbage with two outs
Bottom 5th – UNCG 5, ETSU 1: Kayleigh Willis hit a solo home run to center field with two outs
Top 6th – UNCG 5, ETSU 2: Nikki Grupp scored from third on a single to right field by Tiffany Laughren with two outs
Lauren Lee, ETSU, Fr., OF
Madison Ogle, ETSU, Sr., P
Kylie Toler, ETSU, So., IF
Taylor Wright, ETSU, Jr., IF
Lindsey Bert, Furman, Sr., P
Caroline Taylor, Mercer, RSr., 1B
Ryan Brzozoski, Samford, Fr., UT
Alicia Bazonski, UNCG, Sr., P
Rachael McClaskey, UNCG, Sr., SS
Marisa Sholtes, UNCG, RJr., 1B
Most Outstanding Player
Alicia Bazonski, UNCG, Sr., P
Pinnacle Award Recipient
Mackenzie Winslow, UNCG, Business Administration, 4.0 GPA
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 5, No. 6 ETSU 2