April 26, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Western Carolina softball (21-29) picked up an 18-6, 9-0 sweep of North Carolina A&T (12-28) Thursday in the Catamounts final non-conference games of the season.
The 21 wins by the Catamounts is the most wins for the softball program since 2007, when the team ended with 28 victories.
The Catamounts hit a combined 27 hits and scored 27 runs in both games. Western Carolina scored a season-high 18 runs on a season-high 19 hits in the first game against the Aggies.
Western Carolina's pair of victories extends the Catamounts' winning streak to five games, after the team swept Southern Conference foe Elon last weekend. Overall, WCU is 7-3 in the last 10 games with a .360 team batting average.
In what seemed to be a continuation of the momentum the Catamounts built in its sweep of Elon, Western Carolina unloaded on North Carolina A&T in the first game scoring seven runs in the first inning. The Catamounts batted around in the first inning.
The shortened five-inning game saw the Catamounts score in the first three innings. Western Carolina Head Coach Jim Clift took replaced his starting line-up with reserves to get various players some time on the field in multiple positions after the third inning.
Junior Amber Steinhardt started the game, going two innings, and picking up the win on the mound. Steinhardt improved to 8-6 on the season after allowing two runs on two hits and striking out two.
Fellow junior pitcher Bekah Burkett got to see a couple of innings of work in the third and fourth inning and was replaced in the fifth by freshman hurler Jordan Garrett. The reigning Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week, Garrett closed out the game without allowing a hit.
Six players, in the starting line-up, got multiple hits in the game. Jordan Fulton and Steinhardt each had three hits.
After exploding for season-highs in hits and runs, in the first game, Western Carolina kept the second game a bit more low-key. With the sun quickly setting at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex, the Catamount team knew time was not on their side. The North Carolina A&T complex did not have lights and the team was determined to get to the fifth inning, making it an official game, before the setting sun would end the game.
The Catamounts posted four runs in the top of the first. Amelia Griffin led off with a walk and she scored on a NCA&T error. With the bases loaded, and one out, Haley Pace hit a base-clearing triple, her first triple of the season.
Fulton hit her third double of the season, in the second inning, scoring Griffin for her second run of the game. Western Carolina hit a bit of a lull in the third and fourth innings, failing to score.
The Catamounts put the game away in the top of the fifth inning, scoring four runs. Erin Foster drew her second walk of the game to lead off the fifth. With one out, pinch hitter Morgan Wyatt tripled scoring Foster. Steinhardt scored Wyatt on an RBI double and then Pace cleaned up the rest of the game with a two run homerun to centerfield.
Garrett, who closed out game one, tossed the complete five inning second game. She allowed just four hits and struck out six. Garrett moves to 9-15 on the season.
Though Foster, who is without question one of the hottest hitters in the Southern Conference right now, was handled with kid gloves by the Aggies pitching staff, she still managed a pair of hits around the three walks she was awarded. Foster now has 59 hits, which ranks her second in the Southern Conference, and leads the Catamounts. She is also tied for first in runs scored, in the SoCon, with 42.
Western Carolina will compete in its final Southern Conference road series this weekend when it plays at UNCG on Saturday and Sunday. The twin-bill of the conference series begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.