CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - No. 5 seed Western Carolina softball (22-31) had its magical run in the Southern Conference Championships halted with a 6-2 loss to No. 4 seed Furman (31-24) in the semi-finals of the tournament Friday at Frost Stadium.
The Catamounts reached the SoCon Championships semi-finals for the second time in the program's history. Western Carolina's first appearance came in 2007 when the team won its first two games and dropped its final two. This year's squad end its tournament run with the same 2-2 record. The two wins in the tournament ties the most in school history.
As the final innings faded away, Western Carolina softball lamented the last time the duo of seniors Jordan Garrett and Heather Chastain would slip into a Catamount uniform and work together inside the lines. Chastain was there for all of Garrett's career breaking milestones as Garrett owns every major Catamount pitching record.
Garrett went over 200 strikeouts for a season for the second time in her career ending with 206. She completes her time at Western Carolina as the all-time career strikeout leader with 740. Garrett was a 2015 Southern Conference Second Team All-Conference selection and also earned College Sports Madness SoCon Pitcher of the Year and first team all-conference honors.
Alex Sappington led Furman (31-24) with a complete game in the circle, allowing two runs on eight hits with two walks and one strikeout for her seventh win of the season. Ambree Muller recorded three hits in five at-bats with a run and an RBI while Lindsey Bert drove in two runs and Courtney Jacobs tallied two hits in the win.
Western Carolina (22-31) was led by Anna Hughey with two hits, a run and an RBI coming off the bench. Taylor Sigmon and Crystal Cyr each added two hits to combine for half of the Catamounts' eight hits. Garrett was charged with the loss in the final game of her college career. She recorded eight strikeouts in her final start to give her 740 for her career, adding to her school record.
Furman scored right from the get go with a run in the top of the first. Ambree Muller singled to left field and stole second to put a runner on second with no outs. Two batters later, Sieara Bishop walked and Taylor Jenkins was hit by a pitch to load the base with one out. Bert hit in to an RBI fielder's choice that plated Muller, as Bishop was forced out at third on the play. Garrett would get a flyout to end the inning and prevent any further damage.
The Paladins added a run in the fourth. Bert reached on an error to lead off the inning and was followed by Elise Smith with walk. Garrett would get the next two in the order on a flyout and a strikeout. Jacobs came through for Furman, singling to center to score Olsen, who pinch ran for Bert, to make it a 2-0 lead.
Western Carolina responded with a run in the home half of the inning. Kara Salvo drew a lead-off walk and Emily Helton came on to pinch run and quickly stole second base. Heather Chastain would bring her around with a single to left center to cut the lead to 2-1. The Catamounts threatened for more, loading the bases with one out, but Kimrey hit a liner right at Jenkins at second, who snared it and doubled the runner off of first for the double play.
Furman tacked on to their lead with single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings. Bert hit a sac fly to left to score Jenkins with one out in the fifth to add the first run. Taylor Collins hit a lead-off homer in the sixth, her fifth of the season, to extend the lead to 4-1 for the Paladins.
The Paladins would score for the fourth straight inning with two runs in the top half of the seventh. Jenkins was hit by a pitch to lead things off and Bert followed with a single through the left side. After back-to-back strikeouts, Hope Smith singled off the pitcher's glove to load the bases. Furman would then back-to-back singles Johnson and Muller to plate two runs extend the lead to 6-1.
Western Carolina add a run in the bottom half of the seventh, though, as Hughey drove a ball deep to left center for her first home run of the season to cut the lead to 6-2 with two outs but it was the only run WCU could push across. .
Chastain ends her career having reached base safely in the final 17 games of the year.
Sophomore Courtney Price earned College Sports Madness SoCon All-Conference Second Team.
Western Carolina's 38 homeruns this season is the most since 2013 when the team had 44.
Garrett's 16 wins this season are the most in her career and the second most for a Catamount pitcher since Mendy McKenzie who had 22 in 2006.
Western Carolina has at least one homerun in three of the four SoCon tournament games.