Softball Falls to Mercer, Defeats Western Carolina to Stay Alive in SoCon Tournament
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – After falling in a 3-0 shut out defeat to Mercer earlier in the day, UNCG kept its season alive Thursday afternoon at the Southern Conference Tournament, defeating Western Carolina 6-5 at Frost Stadium.
Alicia Bazonski (Sheffield, Mass./Mount Everett) received the loss in the early game, allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits to the Bears in her seven innings of work.
Mercer got all of the offense they would ultimately need in the first inning, working a run with a lead off single and some small ball. The Bears tacked on another run in the second, taking advantage of a Bazonski throwing error.
UNCG put together its best threat in the fifth inning when Sidney Grkman (Salisbury, N.C./Jesse Carson) and Rebecca Kale (Hudson, N.C./South Caldwell) knocked back-to-back two-out singles. Hagan Kiser (Asheboro, N.C./Southwestern) entered as a pinch hitter and sliced a liner into left but Taylor Miller snuffed out the chance with a nice diving catch for the third out.
The Bears added another run in the sixth and Stella Preston closed things out, earning the save in relief of Megan Bilgri with a pair of perfect innings in the sixth and seventh frames.
With UNCG's back against the wall, the Spartans turned once again to the horse that got them there all year in Bazonski. The junior came through with the win, allowing five runs on 11 hits in her 6.1 innings of work.
The Catamounts twice used aggressive base running to score in the first inning. On back-to-back at-bats, WCU legged out infield singles and the runner from second base never stopped, coming around to cross the plate.
The Spartans, however, responded in the top of the second. Rachael McClaskey (Pine Hill, N.J./Overbrook) took four straight balls for a lead off walk and Grkman blooped a single into center that caused two Catamounts to collide, allowing both runners to move into scoring position. Kale came up clutch in the next at-bat, lining a single into center field to plate both runners and tie the game at two apiece.
The tied game wouldn't last long as Western Carolina added a run in both the second and third to take a 4-2 lead.
UNCG again had a response. Marisa Sholtes (Albany, N.Y./South Colonie Central), McClaskey and Tory Wright (Potomac Falls, Va./Dominion) registered back-to-back-to-back singles to lead off the fourth and load the bases and all three moved up on a Grkman sacrifice fly. Following a Kale hit-by-pitch, Jasmine Palmer (Biltmore Lake, N.C./Florida State) drew a walk with the bases loaded, allowing McClaskey to trot home to tie the game.
For the first time all day, UNCG grabbed the lead in the fifth inning. Following a Gabrielle Cubbage (Felton, Del./Lake Forest) single up the middle, Sholtes crushed a Courtney Buchanan offering over the center field fence, tying for the SoCon lead with her 10th dinger of the season and giving the Spartans a 6-4 advantage.
The Catamounts cut the gap in half in the sixth and put the tying run on base in the seventh but Stephanie Bryden (Orlando, Fla./East River) came on in relief and got the final two outs for her first save of the year.
The Spartans will look to keep the ride going in the double-elimination tournament, beginning the day with a game against the winner of Samford vs. Chattanooga Friday at approximately 12:30 p.m.