JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 12, 2009) - With the Lady Bucs in dire need of snapping their four-game losing streak, it was a pair of juniors who stepped up to help end the slide and hand Belmont a pair of conference losses on Easter Sunday inside the ETSU Softball Complex.
Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) earned both wins in the circle for the Lady Bucs and shortstop Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) went 4-for-7 with a double, two stolen bases and two RBIs - including the game-winner in game two which sent the Lady Bucs home with the sweep. ETSU took advantage of all six of Belmont's errors in the opener and cruised to a 7-2 victory, and Cason's sacrifice fly RBI in the bottom of the sixth snapped a 3-3 contest as the Lady Bucs hung on for the 4-3 victory on Senior Day.
With the sweep, ETSU moved its record to 23-18, 5-9 in the A-Sun and the Lady Bucs are now a perfect 8-0 against Belmont since joining the conference in 2005-06. The Bruins suffered their eighth straight loss and dropped to 9-21, 1-9 on the year.
Hardy improved her record to 13-9 on the year after picking up both wins in the doubleheader. The Rocklin, Calif. native started game one and allowed one unearned run on one hit, while walking five and striking out one. Then in the nightcap, the Rocklin, Calif. native entered in relief and tossed three shutout innings for the victory.
Prior to the game seniors Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.), Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.), Kate Powell (Johnson City) and Cat Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) were honored with a special pregame ceremony on the field with their families.
After the pregame festivities the Lady Bucs went to work and took advantage of a key Belmont error in the bottom of the second to grab a 2-0 lead. With two outs and no one on base, Zyskowski, Chelsea O'Connor (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Cason recorded three consecutive singles to load the bases - which led to Powell coming to the plate. Belmont looked to get out of the inning unscathed, but first baseman Hannah Brenzie dropped the throw from Dawn Thoni at second and Zyskowski and O'Connor scored on the play.
More fielding blunders by Belmont led to a pair of unearned runs for the Lady Bucs in the fourth. Zyskowski reached base when she was plunked by a pitch for the 22nd time in her career and placed herself into scoring position by stealing second. The Grand Rapids, Mich. native trotted in when Bruin pitcher Sammi Parks air-mailed her throw to first on a bunt attempt by O'Connor (the freshman infielder took second when the ball went out of play). Then, with O'Connor on second, Cason laid down a perfect bunt and reached safely after Parks again overthrew Brenzie at first - leading to O'Connor coming in to touch the dish.
The Lady Bucs eventually locked up the game after Belmont committed three more errors in the sixth and ETSU pushed three runs across the plate to grab a 7-0 lead.
The Bruins finally plated solo runs home in the sixth and seventh innings, but it was too late as ETSU walked away with the five-run victory.
Cason belted out a season high three hits in the game, while Zyskowski and O'Connor each scored two runs apiece.
Freshman right-hander Shelby Morris (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) made her fifth appearance of the season and allowed one run on one hit and struck out one Belmont hitter. Parks (3-11) allowed four runs (one earned) on six hits in 5.2 innings of work.
Game Two Recap
After each team couldn't hold onto early one-run leads, junior shortstop Cheniece Cason's sacrifice fly RBI in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the game-winner as ETSU hung on to a 4-3 victory.
With Belmont trailing the entire time in game one, the Bruins jumped ahead for the first time all day when Dawn Thoni led off with a triple to right-center and came in to score on Brooke Babington's squeeze play.
The Bruins didn't hold the lead for long, as Trisha Massenzo's (Russellville, Tenn.) two-out double to right tied the game at one. Junior Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) - who drew a two-out walk prior to Massenzo's two-bagger - scored from second on the play.
Once again more Belmont errors continued to give the Lady Bucs life in the second and ETSU took a 3-1 advantage. Cat Zyskowski reached on a throwing error by Cassie Bollin at short to begin the inning and later scored on a throwing error from Belmont's Sara Bentley at third. Vicki McCoy - who reached on a bunt single and led to Bentley's throwing error - was caught stealing second and Belmont should have been out of the inning on that play. However, the error that began the frame came back to haunt the Bruins when Chelsea O'Connor belted a two-out double to left and she scored on Cason's RBI double up the middle, giving ETSU the two-run cushion.
Unfortunately, Belmont scored one run in the top of the third and evened things at three apiece on Thoni's solo home run to right in the fourth.
After starter Ashley Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) worked out of the fourth inning with the game tied at three, the Lady Bucs made the call to the bullpen in the fifth and went with Marissa Hardy. Hardy was instantly put in a pressure situation in the frame when O'Connor dropped a pop fly at second and led to Belmont having runners at first and third with only one out. However, Hardy helped the cause when she fielded a bunt by Kelley Cash - and the reliable righty quickly tossed the ball to Massenzo at the plate to get Hannah Brenzie tagged out at home. Belmont then left two runners stranded after Hardy struck out Bentley swinging to end the inning.
ETSU left runners stranded at second and third in the bottom half of the fifth, but the Lady Bucs made up for the situation an inning later when Cason came through with the sac fly. Freshman Amy Campbell (Hixson, Tenn.) began the sixth with a walk and was called safe at second when McCoy reached on a fielder's choice. With runners on first and second and no outs, O'Connor loaded the bases with a bunt single and led to Cason's heroics on the very next at-bat. The Moreno Valley, Calif. native hit a deep fly to center - and after Campbell waited to tag at third - she beat the throw by Amanda Buntin and scored the eventual game-winning run.
Belmont didn't go down without a fight, as Stayci Cook and Cash worked consecutive two-out walks in the seventh. After both Bruin runners were able to move up an extra base, Hardy worked out of the jam by forcing pinch hitter Hannah Irwin into a game-ending pop out to center.
Boyd tossed four innings and allowed three runs on seven hits; while Hardy worked the final three innings for her 13th win of the year. Parks again suffered the loss and dropped her record to 3-12 on the season. The Belmont pitcher allowed four runs (one earned) on nine hits in six innings of action.
Cason drove in two runs in the nightcap and Massenzo finished 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Lady Bucs will step out of conference play on Tuesday night and take on No. 12 Tennessee in Knoxville. First pitch of the single-game contest is set for 6 p.m. inside Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.