JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 21, 2012) – It started with Stetson and ironically it ended with Stetson.
Searching for their first Atlantic Sun Conference win since defeating the Hatters last April, the ETSU softball team ended a pair of losing skids after fighting for a 3-1 victory over Stetson in game two of the conference doubleheader on Saturday evening from Betty Basler Field. After being shutout, 5-0, in the opener, sophomore Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) allowed one unearned run, while Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) made the most of her “Senior Day” by driving in a pair of runs and coming up with a game-saving catch in the sixth to solidify the win for the Blue and Gold.
With the split, ETSU – who previously lost a program-record 14 consecutive games this season and 24 straight A-Sun games – moved its record to 11-30, 1-13, while Stetson dropped to 22-17, 7-7.
Martin went 2-for-3 with two RBI in game two, while it was her two-run scoring single through the right side which proved to plate the eventual game-winning runs in a three-run fifth inning. Junior Sam Lower (Sebring, Fla.) snapped the scoreless affair when her one-out squeeze bunt plated pinch-runner Sade Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga.) earlier in the inning to give ETSU the momentum.
Stetson didn’t go down without a fight as the Hatters loaded the bases in the sixth, but as Chelsea Whalley put a drive into a two-out pitch to deep center, Martin came up with one of the biggest catches in her ETSU career to keep the lead intact as she held onto the ball after colliding with the fence. Again, the Hatters had the game-tying run at the plate in the seventh after Brittany Knipp scored on a throwing error by Whitley Hensley (Erwin, Tenn.), but with one out and Chrissy Morello standing at second, Wolff forced Meredith Owen to fly out to left and induced Courtney Brandt to foul out to second baseman Haley Thompson (Nicholson, Ga.) to end the game.
Wolff earned her fifth win of season after allowing the one unearned run on nine hits, while striking out two and issuing only one walk. Brandt suffered the loss (9-8) after being tagged for all three runs on four hits in 5.1 innings of work. Brandt also struck out six and only allowed one walk.
Prior to the three-run fifth, the Bucs threatened early as the Bucs had runners on second and third following a 55-minute lightning delay in the bottom of the first, but Brandt worked of trouble by striking out Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.) and Alex Everett (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) to end the inning.
From there, Brandt retired 11 straight batters until Wolff led off the fifth with a single to center and was removed when Johnson entered as a pinch runner. The Bucs went to the small-ball philosophy to score their first run when sophomore Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the Lawrenceville, Ga. native into scoring position. Following a passed ball, Johnson moved to third – giving Coach Irwin the opportunity to call for the squeeze play. With one out and Lower at the plate, the junior shortstop laid down a perfect bunt that died right in front of home and the pitchers circle to allow Johnson to score with ease – putting ETSU ahead, 1-0. Fortunately, the Bucs weren’t done scoring as Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.) advanced Lower to third via a two-out double to right-center, and both scored on Martin’s infield single – making it a three-run lead in favor of ETSU.
Stetson had its chances as the Hatters put a runner on second in all but the fourth inning; however, the visitors from DeLand, Fla. couldn’t come up with the timely hit like they did in the opener.
In game one, Stetson scored all five runs with two outs and received a dominating effort by Meredith Owen in the circle as she tossed her fourth shutout of the season en route to cruising to a 5-0 win.
Owen improved to 13-9 after tossing the shutout, while senior right-hander Shelby Morris (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) saw her record dip to 2-12 after surrendering five runs (four earned) on 10 hits in the complete game effort.
Stetson out-hit the Bucs, 10-4, while Courtney Brandt connected on a solo homer in the fifth and Demi Meza added a three-run shot in the sixth.
The Hatters got all the offense they would need in the top of the first when Brandt’s two-out RBI single to center scored Chrissy Morello – giving Stetson the 1-0 advantage.
Stetson threatened in the third when they loaded bases with two outs, but Lower kept the Bucs in the game with a leaping grab off a liner by Jordan Cleghorn to end the inning and keeping it a one-run affair.
However, with Owen being as efficient as can be in the circle, the Hatters struck for the solo homer in the fifth and iced the game with the three-run round-tripper in the sixth.
After sending down 15 consecutive ETSU hitters, Owen’s perfect game was broken up when Lower led off the sixth with a walk, while Hartnett broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single; however, the Bucs left the pair of runners stranded when Martin lined out to first to end the inning.
The Bucs put three runners on in the seventh courtesy of singles by Horner, Everett, and Lower, but Owen worked out of the jam by striking out Amy Campbell (Chattanooga, Tenn.) to end the game.
The Bucs hit the road for a midweek doubleheader at Tennessee Tech on Tuesday evening in Cookeville. First pitch of the twinbill is slated for 4 p.m.
For more information on Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.