Banner Elk, NC - The Lees-McRae College Softball team spent some time defying odds this season as they moved from a pre-season ranking of #11 in the Carolinas Virginias Athletic Conference to finishing the regular season as the #6 seed heading into CVAC tournament play. The Lady Bobcats finished the tournament ranked #5 in the conference.
The Lady Bobcats swept two games against conference foe St. Andrews Presbyterian April 11th to move from 8th place to 6th place in the conference. The Bobcats beat St. Andrews 8-0 in 5 innings in game 1 and rallied late in the second game, taking a 6-4 win.
Hannah Morgan (Garner, NC) threw a no hitter in game 1, striking out 8 batters in her last appearance of her career on her home field. Adding to Morgan's near perfection was a perfect day at the plate for freshman Dakota Beck (Hillsborough, NC) who was 5-5 with a Homerun, 2 doubles and 2 walks. Beck had 5 RBI on the day.
The Bobcats opened up tournament play this past Friday morning at 9am verses Barton College at Frank Liske Park in Concord, NC. The game was lost to Barton 0-3, despite an outstanding pitching effort by Jessie Shelton (Boone, NC) who only gave up 3 earned runs in 7 innings. The defense was errorless, yet struggled at the plate. Beck and Senior Greta Turner (Brown Summit, NC) had the only two hits of the game.
Friday night was the Conference Awards Banquet, where Morgan was selected to the first team All-Conference as a pitcher. Morgan had a 1.89 ERA in conference play this year as well as batting over .300 and hitting 5 Homeruns. Morgan was also selected to the All-Tournament Team for her performance the following day.
Morgan's performance and leadership shone through on day two as the team played a well-rounded game and got contributions from everywhere. Turner was 2 for 2 at the plate with 2 RBI and a homerun, while freshman second baseman Salle' Horner (Lexington, SC) was 2 for 4 with 1 RBI. Also getting hits against Mount Olive were Emma Parrish (Otto, NC), Talia Freeman (Vilas, NC) and Sara Travis (Jacksonville, FL). Travis also made a catch in left field on a ball that looked like it was clearing the fence.
The Bobcats advanced to play #5 ranked Anderson College, shutting them out for the first time in conference play. Morgan would again throw for the win, with Kasey McHone (King, NC) calling a smart game behind the plate. Anderson made one attempt to score late in the game but was stopped short by a one-hop throw to the plate from outfielder Beth Simpson (Clinton, TN). Offensively, Beck was 3 for 4 and Morgan was 2 for 3 with a homerun and 2 RBIs.
The Bobcats advanced one more round to play #3 ranked Belmont Abbey in the 7:30pm nightcap. The Bobcats jumped ahead in the first inning with a hit from Horner, a sacrifice bunt by Keri Austin (Hudson, NC) and a hit by Turner to drive in the run. The second Bobcat run was scored in the 3rd inning when Beck led off with a double and Morgan drove in the run. Shelton shut out Belmont on the mound until the 6th inning, when pairs of errors and hits would score a run and give Belmont runners on 2nd and 3rd with 0 outs. After throwing 160 pitches for the day, Morgan came in for relief midway through the 6th inning. Belmont kept the offensive momentum going despite the pitching change, scoring two more runs to broaden the lead. The Bobcats were unable to recover the runs and lost the heartbreaker 5-2.
"Putting things into perspective we had an unbelievable year," said Kennedy. "We were the improved team in the conference and should be somewhat satisfied with moving up 6 places in the conference. Fortunately for us we have young ladies that love to win and believe that every game is within our reach. Our seniors have left us some great memories to build upon in the years to come."
Note of Thanks from the Bobcats:
The Bobcats want to thank red-shirt Ashlyn Birmingham for being our inspiration this year. Special thanks to hitting instructor Jeff Rucker for the motivational time spent with our team and the dramatic results shown with our hitters. Thanks to pitching instructor Rachel Grossman for her tailored work with our pitchers and continuous support of our team. Thanks to Toby Scherr for being a reliable and cheerful statistician at all the home games. Much gratitude also goes to our administration, parents, faculty and fans that support us behind the scenes, at the games and in the classroom