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Wolff, Lower lift ETSU past league-leading USC Upstate, 3-2
USC Upstate (37-9, 17-6 A-Sun)
ETSU (13-32, 1-22 A-Sun)
4/24/2013 | Johnson City, Tenn. | Attendance: 55
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Softball earns first A-Sun win, ends 26-game conference losing streak
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 24, 2013) – Junior RHP Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) quieted the nation’s No. 10 offense to just two runs on four hits and senior Sam Lower (Sebring, Fla.) hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the fifth. It culminated to deliver the ETSU softball team’s first win of the Atlantic Sun season, taking down USC Upstate, 3-2, Wednesday afternoon from Betty Basler Field.
ETSU (13-32, 1-22 A-Sun) had lost its last 26 Atlantic Sun Conference contests – dating back to 2012 – heading into Wednesday’s single game with USC Upstate (37-9, 17-6 A-Sun). Exactly two weeks ago in a doubleheader in Spartanburg, the then-No. 24 Spartans outscored ETSU 23-0, winning by scores of 12-0 and 11-0 in a pair of run-rule-shortened games.
It did not matter on Wednesday. The Buccaneers played even with Upstate for most of the afternoon and only trailed for a half-inning before Lower’s fourth homer of the season gave ETSU its second and final lead of the game. The blast came on the 10th pitch of the at-bat after Lower had fouled off four in a row, belting a 3-2 pitch well over the wall in left-center.
“I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it,” said Lower, who went 2-for-3 in the ball game and is 4-for-5 with a walk against USC Upstate this season. “It was awesome.”
Wolff (6-18) was able to hold it down through the final two innings, completing her 18th game of the season. The junior ace allowed four hits, four walks, two runs, one earned, while striking out one. Her counterpart, Jamie Ujvari (17-3), took the loss, allowing ETSU six hits and three runs, two earned, walking none and punching out four.
“Katie Wolff pitched her heart out today. It was a great performance by her to hold [Upstate] to four hits and stifle their offense,” ETSU head coach Brad Irwin said. “Obviously, Sam Lower had a huge hit. The at-bat was a great battle. She fouled several pitches off and then found a pitch she could drive and hit it out of the park.
“Upstate is a tremendous team. They pitch well, play great defense and hit from top to bottom. I’m extremely impressed and excited for us. It was a great effort and we played solid defense. I just hope the girls really enjoy it and relish this victory.”
Upstate entered the week ranked No. 1 in the country in fielding percentage at .983, and had not committed an error in its past 16 ball games. Tuesday, it ended the streak by surrendering one in a loss to Appalachian State, 6-3, and on Wednesday, Kendall Settlemyre bobbled a ball at third base to give ETSU a first-inning lead.
Redshirt sophomore Nicole Fox (Peachtree City, Ga.) stood on third and Lower stood on second after each hit singles to right to leadoff the inning. Junior Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.) moved the two over and a dribbler to third off the bat of senior Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.) popped out of Settlemyre’s glove to give ETSU its first lead.
The Spartans responded the very next inning with a little help from an ETSU fielding blunder. Lindsey Kelly hit a hard grounder to short with runners on first and second, which Lower fielded and stepped on second for the force out. Kelly then took off for second while Wolff was getting reset and was dead to rights at the bag on Wolff’s throw, but it popped out of Lower’s glove and went into right field, scoring pinch-runner Lindsey Greeson from third and tying the game.
Wolff got out of the inning with just the unearned run allowed, getting Upstate’s next two hitters to pop out.
The first earned run of the afternoon came across in the fifth, giving Upstate its first lead. With two down in the inning and Mellena Helms on second base, Shellie Robinson hit a slow roller to Baird at third that looked like it would end the inning. The speedy Robinson hustled all the way down the line to barely beat the throw while Helms never stopped running, rounding third on the throw and scoring on the play.
Lower’s bomb to left-center was the response. Senior catcher Whitley Hensley (Erwin, Tenn.) was hit by a pitch to leadoff the home-half of the fifth and then pinch-run for by freshman local-product Jennine Duncan (Jonesborough, Tenn.). Duncan stayed put through a Fox lineout to left and watched as Lower brought her home on what proved to be the game-winning home run and the 14th long ball of Lower’s career.
Wolff allowed one hit the rest of the way and got Upstate down in order in the seventh as ETSU celebrated a conference win.
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