03/27/06 — Lady Trojans, Crusaders split doubleheader

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Lady Trojans, Crusaders split doubleheader

Published in Sports on March 27, 2006 2:01 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Morgan Whaley's leadoff home run in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the game-winner and reliever Christine Ermer stopped two late-inning rallies to lead Mount Olive to a 3-2 victory over Belmont Abbey in game one of a Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference softball doubleheader Sunday at Nancy Chapman Cassell Field.

In the second game, the Trojans scored five runs in the final two innings, but Belmont Abbey held on for a 6-5 win. Amy Sturch hit a grand slam home run for the Crusaders.

Mount Olive (19-20 overall, 3-8 CVAC) was held scoreless until the fourth inning when Bailey Harrell led off with a double and one-out later, pinch-runner Kensie Cobb tied the game on Melissa Bass's double. Cobb scored on an errant throw on Karen Thornton's sacrifice attempt to give the Trojans a 2-1 lead.

Belmont Abbey (11-24, 3-3) tied the game in the top of the sixth as Sturch drove a pitch over the right field fence for her first home run of the season. The Crusaders had runners on first and second when Erica Rutledge's line drive caromed straight in the air off of Ermer's glove. Ermer, who entered the game in relief of starter Krystal Bourne, made the catch and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.

The double play was the second turned by the Trojans in the game. Left fielder Kat Cahoon made a diving catch on a sinking line drive in the second inning and threw a strike to first for the double play.

Whaley, who had flied out to center field in her previous at-bat, drove a 2-2 pitch over the fence in straightaway centerfield to put the Trojans ahead to stay. The home run was the freshman's second of the year.

"I felt like it was time for me to step up," said Whaley, who also homered in the Trojans' conference opener against Pfeiffer. "I needed to get the job done."

Ermer (3-5) retired the first two batters she faced in the top of the seventh before Jessica Inman drew a walk and Abby Threatt singled, bringing up Sturch. But Ermer got Sturch swinging on a 1-2 pitch to end the game.

Mount Olive played game one without a number of starters, who were helping run a volleyball clinic on campus as part of a sports management class. Head Coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham was especially proud of Bass, Cahoon and Thornton, who filled in as starters in game one and were rewarded with starts in game two.

"All three made some huge plays for us, both offensively and defensively in the first game," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "We were missing some key players in the first game and they really came through for us."

In the second game, Belmont Abbey erupted for five runs in the top of the second inning as Inman drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and after a walk reloaded the bases, Sturch went opposite field with a grand slam home run to left to give the Crusaders a 5-0 lead.

Belmont Abbey extended the lead to 6-0 in the third as Cameron Greene led off with a single, stole second and scored on Katie Hobbs' single. Hobbs was 3-for-3 in game two.

Mount Olive was held hitless until the fourth inning when Melissa Bright beat out a bunt single after Colleen Thomas drew a leadoff walk. But Belmont Abbey starter Rutledge (3-3) struck out the next two batters and ended the threat on an infield line out.

Belmont Abbey had opportunities to clinch a run-rule victory, but the Crusaders left 10 runners on base. Trojan catcher Bailey Harrell retrieved a pitch that got away from her and tagged Leigh Carter out at the plate for the final out in the top of the sixth inning.

Rutledge, who retired 14 of the first 17 batters she faced, retired the first two batters to start the sixth inning, but walked the next two. After reliever Danielle Relyea walked Georgette Richardson to load the bases, Erin Wilson singled up the middle to bring home the Trojans' first run. Whaley then drew a bases-loaded walk to pull the Trojans within 6-2, but Relyea got out of the inning on an infield pop-up.

Ermer, who entered the game with nobody out in the top of the fifth, retired the side in order in the seventh, the only inning in which Belmont Abbey did not record a hit. Ermer pitched three scoreless innings in relief.

In the bottom of the seventh, Tiffanie Pittman drew a leadoff walk and Thomas followed with a single. After Rutledge returned to the mound, two runs came in and Bright ended up at third after her bunt was misplayed. Bright scored one out later on a double by Richardson, who represented the tying run. But Rutledge sealed the win on a fly out to center field.

Mount Olive returns to action Wednesday as the Trojans make their second trip of the season to Salisbury to take on Catawba in a non-conference doubleheader. Mount Olive competed in the Catawba College Tournament earlier this month. Game time is 2 p.m.

The Trojans posted a 3-1 record during their weekend homestand after sweeping a doubleheader over St. Andrews Saturday.

Rather than being disappointed in Sunday's game two loss, Kylis-Higginbotham was proud of the team's comeback.

"I told the team they should feel good about what they accomplished, even if we didn't get the W," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "This team showed a lot of heart. They never got down and they almost pulled off an incredible comeback. If this is the kind of effort this team is going to give, I'm really pumped for the final stretch of the season."

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