By Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director
LAGRANGE, Ga. – LaGrange (1-1, 0-0 CCS) got the season going in earnest as they scored 13 of the 25 runs on the day to split a pair of games with Sewanee (1-1, 0-0 SAA) in an NCAA Division III softball doubleheader game on Saturday, February 4. They claimed the opener 6-4 before dropping an 8-7 thriller in extra innings.
GAME 1: LAGRANGE 6, SEWANEE 4
Following a scoreless first inning, the next frame would be anything but as the teams combined for four runs. The Tigers would get things started in the top of the inning but not until after a pair of strikeouts led things off. A single and steal by Maggie Barker put a runner in scoring position and Eve Bournias brought her home when a pop up to right field fell in on the very next play. She would then take third before LC escaped the inning.
Choking off any further damage in the inning would pay dividends in the home half as freshman shortstop Kelsea Moody (Johns Creek, Ga.) led off with a bunt single and went to third on a double to right by freshman outfielder Katelyn Minnihan (Stockbridge, Ga.).
Green promptly stole second and came around with Minnihan to score a pair of runs when sophomore outfielder Abby Vanhoose (LaGrange, Ga.) laced a single to right. She made it to second on a throwing error but would be stranded there behind a pair of fly outs and a groundout, but not before the Panthers took a 3-1 lead.
A quiet third would yield just three singles between the clubs before LaGrange took advantage of three-up, three down in the top of the fourth. They would then do game-changing damage in the home half with three runs on five hits, an effort spearheaded by a two-RBI triple by junior third baseman Marley Smith (Smithfield, Ga.). That effort stretched the lead to 6-1.
Undaunted, Sewanee came right back as Barker led off the fifth with a double and crossed home plate following a walk and a pair of singles, the last of the latter by Madilyn Parker. Zoe Crockett would put the ball in play in the next at bat and that would be all she would need to do as a throwing error scored two and set the table with runners at second and third. That cut it to 6-4 but the Tigers would get no closer as LaGrange got a strikeout and fly out to prevent any further damage.
Over the final two and a half innings there would be four hits, all singles and all belonging to the Panthers, as Sewanee could not get anything else going. From there LC would set them down in order to lock up the season-opening 6-4 victory.
Barker led the way for the Tigers with a 2-for-3 day that included a pair of runs while Parker was 2-for-4 with an RBI – their only one of the day. Michaela Walker went just 3.2 innings in the circle, giving up 11 hits and six earned runs to suffer the loss and fall to 0-1.
Smith and Vanhoose anchored the Panthers' performance, with the former going 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs a run and a walk. Vanhoose raked a 3-for-3 day to go with a pair of RBIs and Moody was 3-for-4 with a run scored. Freshman pitcher Claire Chamberlain (Rome, Ga.) went the distance, surviving four runs – only one earned – and struck out seven to pick up the win and move to 1-0.
GAME 2: SEWANEE 8, LAGRANGE 7 (8 Innings)
It would take two innings for either team to ramp up their offense in the nightcap but when they did it would see the Panthers explode for four runs on six hits in the bottom of the third. Outside of an RBI double by senior catcher Maggie White (Alabaster, Ala.) it would come in the form of a thousand tiny papercuts as LC put together that rally behind six singles – including four in a row with two outs – to take a 4-0 lead.
As they did in the first game Sewanee would bounce back, this time with four hits that produced three runs in the top of the fourth. Alice Charboneau had the big blow with a run-scoring double to right and would then come around to score two batters later, although LaGrange would limit the damage on that play as they gunned out Sarah Wright and then got out of the inning with a liner on the next batter.
The Tigers weren't done either as they continued their assault on Panther pitching in the top of the fifth, but this time with small ball. Christian Cain walked to begin the inning and then was sacrificed over to second before Grace Black joined her on base with a walk of her won. Another sac bunt advanced both runners before a Hannah Wilson single through the right side gave Sewanee their first lead of the day with a narrow 5-4 margin.
LaGrange got off the deck in the bottom of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by junior pitcher Hailee Palmer (Waverly Hall, Ga.), whom they immediately sacrificed over to second. That was followed by an RBI single by freshman pitcher Isabelle Herren (Buford, Ga.) and a continued threat as a throwing effort put runners on second and third. Sewanee would get out of that jam, however, as they induced a groundout on the next play.
The Panthers would break that 5-5 tie in the bottom of the sixth when junior second baseman Lindsey Swearngin (Tyrone, Ga.) set things up as she roped a one out double to left center. Sewanee managed an out on the next play but shoddy defense would be their Achilles heal as a fielding error in the infield allowed Swearngin to score the go-ahead run .
It would be a short lived lead though as a one-out throwing error put on Crockett, who advanced to third on a Wilson grounder. At that point Charboneau would come through in the clutch as she banged a triple to right center, bringing home Crocket and tying the score at 6-6. Despite Charboneau sitting on third they would not be able to take advantage as a strikeout then ended any further threat and the Panthers going down in order in the bottom of the frame sent the teams to extra innings.
The Tigers would waste no time taking advantage of the "ghost runner" placed on second to start the inning as Barker laced a double to the right centerfield gap to drive home Wright. Bournias followed with a double to the left centerfield gap, scoring Barker and advancing to third for an 8-6 lead.
The Panthers would then get the first out on a strikeout before throwing out Bournias at the plate and getting out of the inning with a grounder back to the pitcher. Despite the damage incurred in the top of the frame LaGrange still had the opportunity to tie it up in their half.
A fielder's choice would advance the runner on second and Minniahan swiped second to put the tying run in scoring position with less than two outs. A sac fly by Green brought home Chamberlian to cut the deficit in half but any hopes of knotting it up evaporated on the very next play as the Panthers hit into a game-ending double play to seal the 8-7 decision.
Wilson and Charboneau would each go 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored with the latter getting hers on a double and triple to lead Sewanee. Barker finished 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and a run and Bournias and Wright each had an RBI. Hanna Hollis went the first 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and four earned runs and Michaela Walker the final 2.1, getting the win despite giving up two runs.
Herren anchored the offense for LaGrange with a 2-for-4 performance that included three RBIs and Swearngin finished 3-for-5 with a double. Palmer went 2-for-4 with a run and RBI and Herren pitched into the eighth, allowing all eight runs, six earned, to drop to 0-1.
The Panthers are back in action on Thursday, February 9 when they host NAIA member Reinhardt in a doubleheader. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. at the LC Softball Complex.