GREENSBORO, N.C. -No. 7 seeded Western Carolina softball (20-34) defeated No. 2 seeded College of Charleston (34-19) 3-1 in the first round of the Southern Conference Championships Wednesday at UNCG Softball Field.
The Catamounts will face No. 3 seeded Georgia Southern at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Western Carolina rode the arm of Catamount hurler Jordan Garrett and the bat of senior Amber Steinhardtto earn the victory over the Cougars. Garrett improves to 13-12 on the season giving up one run on five hits and striking out five.
Steinhardt set the tone in the first inning, for WCU, when she took a 3-2 offering from CoC pitcher Hope Klicker over the left field wall for her fifth homerun of the season.
The early 1-0 lead allowed Garrett to all but hit the cruise control button as she blew by the Cougar batters. In the first inning, Garrett got out of a jam, with two Cougar base runners on, when she forced Chandler Frisbee to strike out and Mackenzie Maples to ground out.
The Catamounts tacked on its second run of the game in the third inning. Freshman short stop Karley Harkey reached first on a Cougar error and Makenzi McAteer laid down a nice sacrifice bunt attempt that moved Harkey to second and McAteer reached first. Amelia Griffinfollowed with a sacrifice bunt and the Catamounts had runners on second and third with one out. With two outs, Steinhardt hit an infield single RBI that scored Harkey.
In the three of the next four innings, Garrett kept the Cougars at bay by getting a strikeout to end the inning in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
In the sixth inning, Steinhardt stuck again for her third hit of the game. A fielder's choice allowed Taylor Sigmon to reach first and Steinhardt to move to third. Senior Haley Pace's RBI single scored Steinhardt for Western Carolina's third run of the game. The RBI moves Pace into a tie for second place in the Catamount record books for RBI in a career with 97, knotting her with former Catamount Stephanie Beatty(2006-09).
In the sixth inning, Garrett worked around a two out double by Maples getting Allison Pedigo to end the inning.
College of Charleston looked like it had put on its rally caps in the bottom of the seventh inning. Rebecca Mueller led off with a single to right field. With one out, Courtney Clarke drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Garrett and the Catamount defense dug deep and Ashton Jarrett hit into a fielder's choice getting the force out at third for the second out of the inning. With two outs Lizzy Vaughn hit an RBI single to the right side to break up Garrett's shutout attempt and give the Cougars their first run. Garrett, however, recovered forcing Kelsey Hodgson to ground out to end the game.
Klicker takes the loss and falls to 17-10 on the season. Western Carolina ended the game with six hits.