CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Fifth-seeded Western Carolina softball dropped a nail-biting, heart-breaker to No. 1 seed Chattanooga, 5-4 in 10 innings Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference Championships. The Catamounts will play No. 6 seed UNCG around 6 p.m. today at Frost Field.
Chattanooga needed just one pitch to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th, as Nicole Osterman doubled to right center to score Roberts from second. Blanco then bunted Osterman to third with one out to put the game-winning run just 60 feet away. Two batters later, Anyssa Robles singled to left center to plate Osterman and give the Mocs the 5-4 victory to remain in the winner's bracket.
UTC was led by Sam Taylor and Robles with two hits apiece. Jesslyn Stockard drove in two RBIs while Sarah Beth Roberts and Nicole Osterman reach scored twice for the Mocs. Eight of the nine hitters in the starting lineup recorded a hit. Taylor Deason tossed 5.0 innings in relief, allowing two unearned runs on six hits with no walks and one strikeout to earn the victory.
Abigail Daniels went 4-for-4 with two runs scored for Western Carolina with Heather Chastain and Crystal Cyr each contributing two of the team's 12 hits. Kara Salvo accounted for all four of the Catamounts runs in the game, driving in three and scoring the final run in the 10th.
Chattanooga would get on the scoring started with a run in the third with all the action coming with two outs. After two groundouts to start the inning, Taylor and J.J. Hamill had back-to-back singles to put two on with two out. Roberts then recorded the third straight single to score Taylor from second and keep the inning going. Osterman followed with a walk to load the bases but Garrett got a foul out to left to end the inning with the Mocs leading 1-0.
Western Carolina got the run back in the top of the fourth. Daniels singled down the third-base line and moved to second on a bobble by the left fielder. Victoria Mariscal bunted Daniels over to third to put her 60 feet away with one out. Kara Salvo then lined out right at the right fielder but a slight hesitation by the fielder allowed Daniels to score and tied the game at one.
After Garrett retired the side in order in the bottom of the fourth, the Catamounts threaten to for more runs in the top of the fifth. Cyr single up the middle to lead off the inning and two batters later Harkey doubled to left center, putting runners on second and third with one out. Chattanooga would turn to Kailey Palazzolo in the circle. She walked the first batter she faced to load the bases but came back to strike out Mariscal for the second out. Salvo then earned her second RBI of the day, drawing a walk to score Cyr from third and give Western Carolina a 2-1 lead. Palazzolo would get a groundout to shortstop to end the inning.
Western Carolina had a chance to add to their lead in the top of the sixth but couldn't capitalize. Price, Sigmon and Cyr all reached in succession to load the bases with no outs. Deason, who entered the game earlier in the inning to face Sigmon, got a 5-2-3 double play followed by a groundout to third to end the inning and maintain the current margin.
Chattanooga would grab the momentum and retake the lead in the sixth. Roberts and Osterman drew back-to-back walks to start the Mocs' half of the sixth. Blanco then put down a sac bunt to move the runners to second and third with one out. It would bring up Jesslyn Stockard, who singled to right to score both runners and give the Mocs the 3-2 lead.
Western Carolina would not go down without a battle. Daniels singled up the middle to lead off the inning and moved up to second on a wild pitch. Mariscal then moved Daniels to third with a sac bunt for the first out of the inning. Salvo then found herself at the plate with another chance for an RBI and came through, driving the ball deep enough to right for a sac fly to score the runner from third and tie the game.
Taylor would lead off with a single through the right side to start the Chattanooga seventh. From there, Western Carolina would go to Taylor Sigmon to finish the game in the circle. Sigmon struck out the first batter that she faced and forced the next to groundout back to her in the circle but two wild pitches put a runner on third. Osterman would come to the plate and run the count full before eventually flying out to right to send the game in to extra innings.
Both teams had their lead-off batter reach in their respective halves of the eighth but neither were able to bring in a run.
Western Carolina got a one-out single by Daniels for her fourth hit of the game in the ninth and Mariscal reached on an error to put two on with one out. The Mocs would turn a 6-5-4 double play, though, to end the inning. Chattanooga got the lead-off man on to start the bottom half of the ninth but could not bring her across.
In the 10th, the international tie breaker rule took effect, which places a runner on second base to start the inning. Salvo would start the inning on second for Western Carolina and Chastain would move her to third with a sacrifice bunt. Price then drove her in with a line-drive single off the glove of the third basemen to give the Catamounts the lead. Sigmon followed Price with a single before Cyr grounded out to short on a close play at first to put runners on second and third with one out. Deason would get a groundout to end the inning.