By Joshua J. Darling, Sports Information Director
LAGRANGE, Ga. – It would be a tale of two games as LaGrange (7-15, 1-3 CCS) split a pair against Collegiate Conference of the South (CCS) power Belhaven (16-11, 8-2 CCS), picking up a 1-0 victory in the opener and falling 13-4 in the nightcap in an NCAA Division III softball doubleheader on Saturday, April 1.
GAME 1: LAGRANGE 1, BELHAVEN 0
The opener would be a quintessential pitcher's duel as the teams combined for just three hits over the first four innings, all singles. The last of those would be a leadoff single back to the pitcher by the Blazers Allie Gordon, which was followed by a sacrifice bunt and error that put runners on second and third. A twin killing, followed by foul out then got the Panthers out of the jam and kept it scoreless.
They would not capitalize on a one out walk in the home half of the inning but they would in the bottom of the fifth. After stranding a Belhaven runner at second in the top of the frame, LaGrange got a one out double to left center from freshman outfielder Abby Hefner (Talking Rock, Ga.). She immediately moved to third on a wild pitch and came home when the centerfielder hauled in the second out, only to throw the ball away for a 1-0 lead.
The Blazers would then threaten almost immediately in the top of the sixth as Gordon laced a one out triple to the right centerfield gap. Just as quickly as it came, however, that opportunity would dissipate behind a foul out to third and a fly ball to left.
The Panthers would respond in the home half of the frame with a leadoff single by junior second baseman Lindsey Swearngin (Tyrone, Ga.) that would see her move all the way to third on a pair of wild pitches before a fly out ended that threat.
Left with that narrow one run margin, the teams headed to the seventh where Anna McNeer was hit by a pitch with one out and then stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. That would be as far as she would get, however, as LC rang up a strikeout and closed it out with a pop up to short.
Gordon would led the limited offense that Belhaven mustered on the day as she went 2-for-3 with a triple while Ziskin was also 2-for-3. Natalie Parker started and went just two innings, allowing a walk, one hit and the lone run to suffer the hard luck loss and fall to 1-3.
Hefner delivered one of LaGrange's three hits, going 1-of-r2 with a double and the deciding run while Gardner was 1-for-2. Freshman pitcher Claire Chamberlain (Rome, Ga.) was masterful in the circle, throwing her 10th complete game, this one with no runs, three strikeouts and just four hits to pick up the win and move to 6-5.
GAME 2: BELHAVEN 13, LAGRANGE 4
As is so often the case following a low scoring affair, the nightcap would be far from it as the clubs combined for seven runs over the first three innings.
Highlighted by an RBI double by Gordon, the Blazers would jump out ahead right away as they pounded out three hits and took advantage of an error on their way to three runs in the top of the first. Swearngin then led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single, made her way to third on back-to-back groundouts and scored on a single by freshman shortstop Kelsea Moody (Johns Creek, Ga.) to cut it to 3-1.
BU then got that run right back in the second as Gordon belted a solo shot to center but the Panthers would answer in the third. Consecutive singles to start the inning allowed LaGrange to benefit from a throwing error on an out that brought home one run. A single by senior third baseman Reagan Gunter (Villa Rica, Ga.) later in the frame then scored Swearngin to make it 4-3.
The teams would then trade runs in the fourth, with Belhaven plating a run on a fielder's choice and the Panthers doing so on a throwing error with two outs. It would remain 5-4 until the Blazers asserted their will over the final two innings, erupting for eight runs – two in the sixth and six in the seventh – to reach the eventual final margin of 13-4.
Gordon anchored Belhaven's performance, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs, three runs, two doubles and homerun while Ellie Jones was 3-for-4 with a double, four RBIs and a pair of runs. McNeer added three RBIs with a homerun and Miller was 2-for-4 with four runs. Gracey Baucom went three innings in the circle, allowing one earned run but would get a no decision with Ashlynn Jenkins throwing one inning with only an unearned run allowed. She improves to 1-0.
Moody went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI to pace LaGrange while Swearngin was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. Gunter had the only other RBI to round out the offense and Gardner threw 5.1 innings, surrendering five earned runs to fall to 0-2.
The Panthers return to action with four games on the backend of next week as they travel to Maryville for a pair of games on Friday, April 7 and Berea on Saturday, April 8. Game times are 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.