Bears Snatch Super Regional Opener 9-7 from Saints
DAHLONEGA, GA – The opening game of the NCAA Southeast Super Regional lived up to all the hype on Friday evening, as seven home runs left the park, but 2nd-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne had the last punch and came out on top with a 9-7 victory over top-seeded North Georgia at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.
With their 10th straight win, the Bears (45-8) find themselves just one win away from their first-ever Division II World Series appearance, while North Georgia says goodbye to their current 12-game winning streak and fall to 50-10 on the year.
The loss for the Saints is their first-ever Super Regional defeat, while L-R comes out on top over North Georgia for the first time in school history, but still trail the all-time series 4-1.
The Bears put together their first threat of the game in the second inning with two runners on and no outs, but Jessica Coan would dig deep and get out of the jam, stranding both Lenoir-Rhyne runners and keeping the game scoreless.
After the threat by the Bears in the top of the inning, North Georgia came back in the bottom half and threw a pair of runs on the board to take the early lead. Callie Fernandez delivered a run scoring double to the gap in right center to plate the first run of the game, and Ansley Williams came through with two outs and singled through the left side, sending Fernandez home to give the Saints a 2-0 lead.
North Georgia came right back and doubled the lead in the third inning, using a pair of solo home runs to jump out to a commanding 4-0 advantage. Sarah Johnson led off the frame and blasted a solo shot to right center, and Pilar Harden followed and connected with a solo shot of her own to give the Saints a four-run lead.
The Bears to pulled to within a run on one swing of the bat in the fourth inning when Megan Laxton stepped the plate with a pair of runners aboard and drilled the sixth pitch of the at-bat off the foul pole down the left field line, sending three runners to plate and cutting the North Georgia lead to just one at 4-3.
Lenoir-Rhyne was at it again in the fifth inning, using just one hit, but it was a leadoff triple by Kat Rivers to spark what would be a two-run inning to give the Bears their first lead of the day at 5-4.
With North Georgia facing their first deficit of the day in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Saints responded in style, using a leadoff walk by Sarah Johnson, and with two outs, Fernandez stayed red hot and belted a two-run homer over the fence in left center to put the Saints right back out in front at 6-5.
The battle of the best offenses in the southeast continued into the sixth inning when the Bears had a rally brewing and Jody Mizelle singled to left field to plate a run and knot the score at 6-6. Carlee Carpenter then stepped to the dish and blasted her fifth home run of the year down the left field line, a two run shot to give Lenoir-Rhyne the lead right back and make it 8-6.
Both teams added runs with solo shots in the seventh inning, as Sarah Adkins provided the blast for the Bears, while Fernandez continued her perfect day at the plate, smacking her second home run of the day, but it proved to be too little too late in a 9-7 defeat.
Fernandez had a career day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a double, two home runs, four runs batted in, and three runs scored for the Saints, while Haily Jarman had the only multi-hit game for L-R, recording a pair of hits and scoring two runs.
Laxton (6-1) picked up the win for the Bears in relief, tossing 5.0 innings and giving up five hits and three runs, while Sarah Phillips (20-5) suffered the loss in relief as well, giving up four earned runs on three hits.