Ross, McKenzie Lead WCU Softball to Win in First Game; Finish 1-1 on Opening Day Western faces Mercer at 12:15 pm on Sunday, with bracket play to follow; both games on Sunday will be broadcast on WWCU-FM
Lauren Ross was 3-for-3 with two home runs and three RBI as Western won its first ever softball game in the fast-pitch era, defeating Tennessee Tech 3-1.
Atlanta, Ga. - The Western Carolina softball team, playing its first ever contest in the fast-pitch era, handed Tennessee Tech a 3-1 loss Saturday afternoon at the Georgia State First Pitch Classic. The Catamounts' could not carry the positive momentum into their second game of the afternoon, surrendering two runs in the top of the fifth inning to break the 1-1 tie, falling 3-1 to the home standing Georgia State Lady Panthers.
In the opener, Western Carolina's first-ever game in this inaugural season, the Catamounts were led by a pair of freshmen; Lauren Ross, who was 3-for-3 with two home runs and three RBI and Mendy McKenzie, who struck out 10 with zero walks, as Western defeated TTU, a team that returned its lineup intact from last year's NCAA Tournament team and is the defending Ohio Valley Conference Champion.
McKenzie got the program off to a good start, firing a strike on the program's first pitch and later striking out the first batter she faced. The freshman from Clemmons, N.C., worked all seven innings in getting the win, scattering five hits and with one run allowed.
In the bottom of the second, Ross not only recorded the first hit in the program's history, but the Hope Mills, N.C., native gave WCU a 1-0 lead by sending the ball over the center field fence.
Tennessee Tech knotted the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth on the strength on back-to-back doubles.
Still tied in the bottom of the sixth and with two outs, sophomore Savannah Filley extended the inning, fighting off a full count with a pair of foul balls before drawing a walk. Then, on the first pitch of the at bat, Ross gave the Catamounts the lead for good with a two-run, home run to left.
In the afternoon tilt, Western fell behind Georgia State, 1-0, after the top of the first, but quickly knotted the game in the bottom half of the inning. Freshman Stephanie Beatty tallied her first career hit, singling to right. She scored after Ross hit a hot shot to third where the Lady Panther third baseman, Ali Bradford, overthrew the bag at first. The Ga. State right fielder had problems fielding the loose ball, allowing Beatty to scamper home and Ross to race to second, where received a pinch runner, freshman Sam Stepp, but was stranded as the inning ended.
GeorgiaState pulled ahead with a two-spot in the top of the fifth, opening the inning with a Sara Berzofsky homerun to center and a single by Lauren Morlock. She moved to second by a base hit by lead-off hitter Mary Katherine Branan and sacrificed to third by Ali Bradford before scoring on a ground out to second.
As it would turn out, Beatty's single in the first was the only hit Western could muster against GeorgiaState's top pitcher, Elizabeth Hyman, who fanned nine Catamounts in registering the one-hit victory and handed Filley (0-1) her first loss of the season, finishing with three strikeouts and four walks.
All three teams on Saturday finished 1-1, as Tennessee Tech outlasted Mercer, 6-4, in game three and the Bears held GeorgiaState hitless to win 4-0 in the nightcap. The even playing field entering Sunday means the winners of the two scheduled match-ups will face each other in the championship round, slated for a first pitch.
Georgia State hosts Tennessee Tech at 10:00 am Sunday morning, with Western returning to action against the Mercer Bears at 12:15 pm. The consolation bracket is scheduled for . Both games on Sunday will be broadcast live by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard locally on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 or on-line at www.WWCUFM.com.