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Softball Drops Thriller to No. 1 Seed UNCG to end SoCon Tourney Run

May 11, 2017

Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

The Basics:
Score: No. 1 seed UNCG 6, No. 6 seed Western Carolina 5
Records: Western Carolina 18-30, UNCG 29-23
Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- No. 6 seed Western Carolina softball gave No. 1 seed UNCG all the Spartans could handle in the Catamounts "Thriller in Chattanooga" 6-5 loss Thursday evening at Frost Stadium. The Catamounts were eliminated from the Southern Conference Championships with the defeat.

Turning Point:
With the game tied at four, UNCG's Marisa Sholtes hit a two run homerun to give the Spartans a 6-4 lead in the fifth inning-- its first lead of the game. The two-run shot would hold as WCU could only scratch across one run in the bottom of the sixth.

How it Happened:
WCU broke out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning after a two-out rally, which saw five consecutive Catamount hits. Left fielder Hunter Gibbons got things rolling for the Catamounts, after knocking home Courtney Price, who was one second, on a shot up the middle after Gibbons beat the throw to first. Erica Hayes then singled on another shot up middle that middle was grabbed by a diving Jasmine Palmer -- the Spartans' second baseman -- who flipped the ball with her glove to shortstop Rachael McClaskey, but Gibbons was called safe at second on the play. The commotion at second allowed Madison Armstrong to be aggressive on the base paths as she rounded third and dove into home, beating the throw to the plate. The Spartans responded in the top of the second inning after Rebecca Kale blasted a line drive up the middle, scoring teammates McClaskey and Sidney Grkman. The Spartan throw from center field took an awkward bounce off the rubber in the circle and trickled toward the backstop on the third base side. WCU catcher Armstrong quickly picked the ball up and made a laser throw at third base in time to tag Kale out. In the bottom of the second frame, the Catamounts would regain the lead after Shaina Reed doubled to right field, setting up Courtney Buchanan for a sacrifice bunt that advanced Reed to third. Leadoff hitter Ashlyn Long then hit a high-bouncing ball up the middle that was fielded by McClaskey, who attempted to catch Reed dashing for home plate, but the throw was high and tipped off the glove of the UNCG catcher. After the Spartans went three-and-out in the top of the third, the Catamounts scored for the third straight inning. Armstrong doubled down the right field line. Gibbons then grounded to UNCG second baseman Palmer, which allowed Armstrong to advance to third with one out. Hayes hit a hard ground ball to second, but Palmer opted not to make the play at home as Armstrong came in to score the Catamounts' fourth run of the day.

The Spartans posted back-to-back two-run innings in the fourth and fifth to take a 6-4 lead entering the sixth inning. In the top of the fourth, UNCG loaded the bases, prompting WCU head coach Jim Clift to pull his starter Kinsey Liscio from the circle in exchange for Buchanan. A Grkman sacrifice fly let Emily Lopez -- a pinch runner for Sholtes -- tally the third UNCG run of the game. Following a Kale hit-by-pitch, Palmer drew a walk with the bases loaded, allowing McClaskey to trot home to tie the game at 4-4. For the first time all day, UNCG grabbed the lead in the fifth inning. Following a Gabrielle Cubbage single up the middle, Sholtes launched a game-winning home run over the center field fence, which put her tied for the SoCon lead with her 10th home run of the season and giving the Spartans a 6-4 advantage. The Catamounts cut the gap in half in the sixth frame, scoring a run, and put the tying run on base in the seventh but Stephanie Bryden came on in relief and got the final two outs for her first save of the season.

Inside the Box Score:
- Freshman pitcher Liscio got her second start in the SoCon Championships. She went three innings giving up four runs on six hits and struck out one in the no decision.
- Senior pitcher Buchanan came in with no outs in the fourth inning. She went four innings giving up the go-ahead runs to UNCG and allowing three hits and struck out three. She ends the season with a record of 7-9.
- Western Carolina out-hit the Spartans 11 to nine. - Armstrong had a strong day going 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
- Price and Hayes each had two hits.
- UNCG left eight runners on base and WCU stranded seven. - The two teams combined for 11 runs and 20 hits in the game.

News & Notes:
- Armstrong's double in the game was her 13th of the season ranking her third in the WCU record books for doubles in a season.
- The Catamounts closed out the season capturing two seasonal program records turning a school record 24 double plays in 2017 as well as a hitting a record-breaking 71 doubles.
- The Catamounts faced the top three seeds in the 2017 SoCon Championships: No. 1 seed UNCG, No. 2 seed UNCG and No. 3 seed ETSU.
- Western Carolina and UNCG's one run game was the second of three in the SoCon Championships on the day as ETSU knocked off Chattanooga 1-0 and in the nightcap Samford edged the Mocs, to eliminate them, 9-8.
- The Catamounts are now 3-7 in elimination games.
- Western Carolina is now 3-5 in SoCon Championships games in Chattanooga in the last two times the games were played at Frost Stadium.
- After being shut out by ETSU 7-0 to open tournament play on Wednesday, the Catamounts went on to score nine runs over the course of their final two games.

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