Lady Pioneers end Lady Cougars’ season
by BRYAN GRISHAM CSCC Sports Information Director
Apr 27, 2014 | 300 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GALLATIN — The amazing late season run that the Cleveland State softball team made came to an end on Friday afternoon at Volunteer State in the first round of the NJCAA/TCCAA Region VII Conference Tournament.

The Lady Cougars didn't go down without a fight though, as they held a 3-0 lead in both ends of their doubleheader with the Lady Pioneers, only to see the home team post dramatic come-from-behind wins in both contests. Volunteer State took game one in their final at-bat by a final score of 7-6 and then eliminated their guests in game two with a 6-4 win.

The Lady Pioneers will now advance to round two of the tournament, which will be double elimination, next weekend also on their home turf at Volunteer State.

"One bad inning killed us today in both games," explained Lady Cougar coach Katie Willingham. "We swept the season series from them at our place, and they were ready for us today. The girls fought hard and never gave up. We hit the ball extremely well today, but Volunteer capitalized on our mistakes, and that's what a good team does. The girls did a tremendous job of improving as the year went along, and I am proud of them."

The day’s activities started well for the Lady Cougars as they jumped out front with a run in the top of the second inning on an RBI double by Jennifer Kern. Emily Huston tacked on two more runs in the third frame with one swing of her big bat with a two-run homer for a 3-0 lead.

A lost fly ball in the sun helped Volunteer State get on the board in the bottom of the third as Ginny Clayborne got the gift RBI double.

The wheels fell off the Lady Cougar wagon an inning later as two hit batters, two miscues and a walk led to a pair of runs and Clayborne provided the big blow with a bases loaded triple to give her team their first lead of the day at 6-3.

The Lady Cougars came right back in the fifth as Kern singled in another run and then the visitors scratched out two more runs in the sixth as Huston doubled in a run, and Kristen Qualls singled in another to tie the game at six all.

It was Clayborne doing the damage one more time in the bottom of the seventh as she led off with a triple and then strolled home with the winning run on a sacrifice fly to deep center field by Taylor Gullett.

Ida Watson allowed only one earned run but was the tough luck losing pitcher for the Lady Cougars (21-29), while Lauren Woodard picked up the win for Volunteer State (28-24).

Once again, the Lady Cougars jumped on top in game two with three runs in the third inning. Qualls knocked in the first run with a solid single and then scored ahead of Hannah Powell as she belted a two-run homer over the centerfield fence.

The Lady Pioneers got two of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth on an error and a two-run double from Sara Jane Barton.

The home team then took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth with four big runs. Clayborne singled and later scored on a passed ball while Gullett and Sydney Shoulders knocked in a run each to push their lead to 6-3.

As they did all season long, the Lady Cougars did not go quietly as they mounted one last charge in their final turn at the plate. Leslie Nunnelly led off with a double, Miranda Smith followed with single, and Sara O'Rear plated a run with a sacrifice fly, but the rally would end there as the Lady Cougars came up two runs short.

Kelsey Haley took the loss for the Lady Cougars, while Tasia Lewis picked up the win in relief of Hannah Champion, who started for Volunteer State.