HICKORY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (21-11, 5-3 SAC) snatched momentum late Wednesday night at Bears Field against Lenoir-Rhyne (22-7, 6-2 SAC). After falling in game one of a doubleheader 6-4, the Eagles were a strike away from being swept.
However, Cassie Elliot (Johnson City, Tenn.) sent a 2-2 pitch over the wall in center to knot game two at three with her three-run, two-out home run. It was Elliot's only hit of the day.
"I don't think she had done anything all day, but she's got the potential to do that on any swing," Carson-Newman head coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield said. "The kid just gave up too much at the plate and she took advantage and hit it a long way."
The Eagles would go on to win in extra innings 6-3.
"What a momentum changing hit for us," Kazee-Hollifield said. "When we attack strikes, we're a pretty good hitting team. Their pitchers had us chasing stuff all day, we had to recover late."
Game one: Lenoir-Rhyne 6, Carson-Newman 4
The Bears used a big inning to take game one from the Eagles. The contest had the making of a pitchers' duel as the teams battled scoreless through the first three innings.
A top of the fourth Caitlyn Lance (East Ridge, Tenn.) home run – her fourth this year - to left center field gave the Eagles the lead.
L-R would strike back quickly, plating six in the bottom of the frame. The Bears loaded the bases with one out when Kaitie Sims (Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.) walked in a pair of runs. L-R kept the inning going by stringing together singles to keep the merry-go-round whirling.
All told, the Bears laced five hits in the inning. They were aided by four Sims walks. All four of her bases on balls came in that frame. The loss was just Sims' second; she's 12-2.
Carson-Newman left the bases loaded twice and stranded 14 for the game.
"We were more disciplined at the plate and that was absolutely critical," Kazee-Hollifield said. "But we have got to do a better job of bringing runners in. On the flip side of that though it lets our kids know what they are capable of doing at the plate against a tremendous team defensively.
L-R's Brandi Hole (12-4) seized the win in the circle after scattering seven hits in 4.2 innings. Lauren Elder went three-for-three at the plate with an RBI.
Sara Kelley (Ooltewah, Tenn.) had the only multi-hit day to speak off for C-N. She cranked a homerun – her eighth – and singled.
Game two: C-N 6, L-R 3 (8)
Single run innings in the first, fourth and fifth for L-R set the stage for Carson-Newman's comeback.
With Bri Shoemake (Ooltewah, Tenn.) on second and Lance on first after a two-out single through the left side, the stage was set for Elliot's seventh inning dramatics.
She golfed a two-ball, two-strike to center to tie the game with one swing of the bat.
But even with the game tied, the Eagles weren't out of the woods. Cassie Lyons (Knoxville, Tenn.) shut down the heart of the Bears' order in the bottom half of the inning to push the game to extras
"Lyons was tough to build on the momentum that we got offensively," Kazee-Hollifield said. "She by no means had easy outs and had to work to extend the game."
Braleigh Angel (Hixson, Tenn.) pinch ran on second to start the eighth because of the international rule. She quickly moved to third on a Kelli Hensley (Knoxville, Tenn.) bunt to the pitcher to put runners on the corners with no one out.
Hensley promptly stole second to make that runners in scoring position with no one out.
Jessica Morgan (Ooltewah, Tenn.) rapped in the winning run in Angel on a single to center field. Shoemake and Lance would drive in insurance runs to set the final at 6-3.
"Our approach to this game was superb, but we have to use that same mentality when we play Tusculum Tuesday," Kazee-Hollifield said. "We had to elevate our game to win especially when L-R is as good as they are defensively; they just aren't going to give anything up."
Lyons seized the win in the circle for Carson-Newman. She walked six and struck out one to move to 9-9 for the year.
The Eagles play rival Tusculum on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Lady Eagle Softball Complex. Coverage will be available on the Coca-Cola Eagle Sports Network.