For video of UNCG coach Jennifer Herzig's postgame comments, click here.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – On the day UNCG honored the life of former player and coach Tara Csernecky, the Spartans celebrated in grand fashion, taking a pair of walk-off wins over Western Carolina, getting two home runs from Heather Robb and turning what is believed to be the first triple play in school history. UNCG won Saturday's first game 8-7 on a Katelyn Bedwell homer and won game two 6-5 on Eileen Horsmon's RBI single to sweep the Southern Conference doubleheader.
Csernecky, who died of a heart attack at age 40 in December, played at UNCG from 1992-94 and was an assistant coach for the Spartans from 1997-98. Prior to Saturday's first game, UNCG unveiled a memorial garden and plaque in Csernecky's honor behind the home bullpen. Several former teammates and members of Csnerecky's family were in attendance.
"It was a great day," UNCG coach Jennifer Herzig. "You know, it started out on a very somber note, but a really special note. The fact that we could dedicate a memorial garden to Tara and have as many alumni and Tara's parents back on campus for the first time in a very long time, it was a really, really special day."
The Spartans (20-29, 9-10 SoCon) celebrated by turning in two of the most exciting games in recent memory at the UNCG Softball Stadium.
In game one, Western Carolina (21-31, 6-14 SoCon) put up four runs in the top of the first inning to set the tone early, but UNCG would claw back to tie it at 5 and then again at 7 late in the contest. Then, with one out and the bases empty in the bottom of the seventh, Bedwell lined a 1-1 pitch out to right to give the Spartans the win.
The Catamounts batted around in the first inning, pounding out four hits and drawing two walks. After Shemekia Scotton's RBI single put WCU on the board, Amber Steinhardt followed with a double that hit off the top of the wall in center and bounced back into play to score another run. Haley Pace followed with a two-run single as UNCG found itself in an early hole.
The Spartans got a run back in the bottom of the frame on Alex Emeterio's RBI single, but Western negated that run when Scotton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 5-1 in the second.
UNCG pulled within a run in the bottom half, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring three runs. Kiah Ruffin got the scoring started with an RBI groundout, and Aubrey Baldwin hit a two-run single of the middle to make it a 5-4 game.
Robb tied the contest the following inning, hitting a no-doubt home run out to left center to make it 5-all.
The Catamounts reclaimed the lead the following inning, scoring two runs as UNCG suffered a defensive meltdown. Western Carolina's first three runners reached via errors. After one of WCU's runs came in on an error, Pace hit an RBI double to left to make it 7-5 in the fourth.
UNCG went down in order in the bottom of the fourth and Western did the same in the top of the fifth – a first for either side on the day to that point – but the Spartans knotted the game at 7 with a two-run fifth. Emeterio led off with a bunt single, and two outs later, Robb singled through the left side. Dominique Madruga followed with a single to center to bring both runners in, once again giving UNCG life and setting up Bedwell's heroics two innings later.
Robb led UNCG at the plate with a 3-for-3 effort, scoring three runs. Emeterio and Aisha Figueroa had two hits each as the trio accounted for seven of the Spartans' 11 hits.
Steinhardt and Pace had two hits each to pace the Catamounts.
Neither starter factored into the decision as the teams combined to use five pitchers. Erica Navarette (6-12) picked up the win over UNCG, allowing just one hit in three scoreless innings of relief. Starter Cory Mattson worked four innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and four walks.
Jordan Garrett (9-17) took the loss, allowing a run on one hit in 1 1/3 innings. Starter Katie King allowed four runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk in two innings, while Steinhardt tossed three innings of relief, allowing three runs on five hits.
Game two was just as dramatic. This time, it was UNCG that got off to the hot start, plating a pair of runs in the first inning on Horsmon's two-run double off the wall in right center.
The Catamounts answered with a four-spot in the third, getting a two-run single from Erin Foster, an RBI groundout from Scotton and a run-scoring single from Steinhardt to take the lead. WCU would tack on another run the following inning on Jordan Fulton's RBI single down the right field line to make it 5-2 after four.
After the Spartans went down in order in the bottom of the frame, Western threatened to blow it open in the top of the fifth. Kelly Braman, Scotton and Steinhardt led off the inning with back-to-back-to-back singles, but what happened next will go down in UNCG history.
With the bases loaded and no one out, Pace lifted a fly ball to Baldwin in center field. Baldwin fired home to nail Branam at the plate, and catcher Toni MacReynolds fired to Figueroa at third to gun down Scotton trying to take third for what is believed to be the first triple play in school history.
The Spartans tied things up two innings later. After Horsmon led off the sixth with a walk, Bedwell was rung up on an appeal for a checked swing. Robb then hit her second homer of the day, a two-run shot to right center, to make it 5-4. Madruga kept the rally going with a walk, and MacReynolds followed with a single down the right field line to put runners on the corners. Ruffin then hit her second RBI groundout of the day, pulling UNCG level at 5-all.
After reliever Josie Felix worked around a one-out error in the top of the seventh, UNCG came up again with a chance for a walk-off win.
Baldwin smoked a double to the gap in right center to lead things off, and Emeterio followed by dropping down a bunt double in front of the plate. Emeterio beat out the hit, rounded first and noticed no one was paying attention to her and took off for second. WCU couldn't risk the throw with a runner on third, and UNCG was in business with no one out.
Horsmon didn't disappoint, blooping the first pitch she saw into shallow center for the walk-off single to set off UNCG's second wild celebration of the day.
Felix (2-3) picked up the win with an impressive three innings of relief, allowing just one hit. Navarette, who started the contest, took the no-decision after allowing five runs on 11 hits and two walks in four innings of work.
Garrett was again the tough-luck loser. She picked up the Catamounts' first 18 outs, allowing six runs on seven hits and five walks. After allowing Baldwin's leadoff double in the seventh, Garrett gave way to King, who allowed two hits without recording an out.
"I don't know when we've played two ballgames that were that exciting in a very long time," Herzig said. "To win two ballgames in the bottom of the seventh on walk-off hits, one a walk-off home run that Katelyn Bedwell just absolutely mashed, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that. Kids showed up today, they put the hits on the board, they pushed the runs across, and I'm just really, really proud of the effort they put out there."
Emeterio and Horsmon had two hits each for UNCG, while Horsmon had a game-high three RBI. With a combined four hits on the day, Emeterio pushed her career total to 224, leaving her three back of the school record of 227 shared by Karyn Thompson and Jennifer Bonilla.
Robb's two-homer day was the first of her career. It also brought her career total to four against the Catamounts after hitting two at Western Carolina last season.
Fulton was 3-for-4 to lead WCU.
UNCG will try for the series sweep Sunday at 1 p.m.
UNCG 8, Western Carolina 7 (Apr 28, 2012 at Greensboro, N.C.) (Game 1)
Western Carolina.... 410 200 0 - 7 8 1 (21-30, 6-13 SoCon)
UNCG................ 131 020 1 - 8 11 3 (19-29, 8-10 SoCon)
Pitchers: Western Carolina - King, Katie; Steinhardt, Amber(3); Garrett, Jordan(6) and Chastain, Heather. UNCG - Cory Mattson; Erica Navarette(5) and Toni MacReynolds.
Win-Erica Navarette(6-12) Loss-Garrett, Jordan(9-16) T-1:58 A-0
HR UNCG - Katelyn Bedwell (11); Heather Robb (7).
Weather: 56 degrees, cloudy
Steinhardt faced 1 batter in the 6th.
UNCG 6, Western Carolina 5 (Apr 28, 2012 at Greensboro, N.C.) (Game 2)
Western Carolina.... 004 100 0 - 5 12 0 (21-31, 6-14 SoCon)
UNCG................ 200 003 1 - 6 9 1 (20-29, 9-10 SoCon)
Pitchers: Western Carolina - Garrett, Jordan; King, Katie(7) and Chastain, Heather. UNCG - Erica Navarette; Josie Felix(5) and Toni MacReynolds.
Win-Josie Felix(2-3) Loss-Garrett, Jordan(9-17) T-1:50 A-262
HR UNCG - Heather Robb (8).
Navarette faced 2 batters in the 5th.
Garrett faced 1 batter in the 7th.
King faced 2 batters in the 7th
- UNCG -