JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 17, 2008) - After dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker to Campbell in game one, the ETSU softball team exploded for 12 hits and dropped the Lady Camels, 8-2, in the nightcap to force a split Thursday afternoon from Metro-Kiwanis Park.
ETSU - who needed a sweep over Campbell to clinch a berth into next month's Atlantic Sun Tournament - inched its way a little closer to postseason play, thanks to its hot bats, solid pitching and outstanding defense in game two. Four Lady Buccaneer players recorded two hits apiece and sophomore Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) dusted off a rocky first inning en route to capturing her team-leading 15th win of the season.
Just like in game one, Campbell struck early as they grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning of game two. Amanda Miller doubled to left-center and came around to score on Amanda Littlejohn's RBI single to center. Littlejohn advanced to second on the play at the plate, but Hardy cooled things off as she posted back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
After not being able to take a lead in game one, the Lady Bucs finally jumped ahead in the bottom half of the inning on RBIs from Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) and Amanda Haverman (Kirkwood, Mo.). Sophomore Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) - one of the four ETSU players to post two hits in the game - singled to left to begin the inning and advanced to second after Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.) walked and took third on a wild pitch. Jett finally crossed the plate on Hackworth's bases loaded ground out to second. ETSU took the lead on Haverman's RBI single to short - which brought home McCoy.
The Lady Bucs broke the game open after taking full advantage of two Lady Camel miscues and scored four runs on four hits in the bottom of the second. Sophomore Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) singled to left-center, moved to second on a fielding error from pitcher Lauren Stephan. Then, with runners on first and second, both Lady Buccaneer players advanced a base on a passed ball. From there the inning got wild as McCoy was looking to push Cason home on a squeeze play, but the Ringgold, Ga. native sprinted down the line and turned her bunt into an infield hit - which in the end scored two runs. Cason scored on the bunt and Jett made it 4-1 after she came home on a throwing error by Karlie Love at first. Again, Hackworth and Haverman were valuable in the clutch, as they each drove in their second runs of the game. Hackworth's rocket single to second scored McCoy and Haverman's double to left-center plated Hackworth, giving the Lady Bucs a 6-1 lead.
With Hardy cruising, ETSU looked to have things wrapped up, but for insurance purposes the Lady Bucs pushed two more runs home in the sixth. Cason led things off with a single up the middle and scored on Trisha Massenzo's (Russellville, Tenn.) two-out double to left. Hackworth drove in her third run of the game when her single to right scored Massenzo, putting ETSU up 8-2.
Campbell scratched its second run across the plate in the fifth on Littlejohn's sac fly to left; however, Hardy left runners on second and third by getting Shayla Cullum out swinging for her fifth punch out of the game.
Hardy tossed six strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits and struck out seven; while Stephan only lasted 1.2 IP and surrendered six runs (two earned) on six hits. Brittany Stanley - the winner in game one - entered in relief, but was targeted for six hits and gave up a pair of runs. Freshman Ashley Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) made an appearance for ETSU in the seven and allowed one hit.
Cason, Hackworth, Haverman, and Jett each notched two-hit performances and Hackworth mounted her fifth multi-RBI effort of the season with her three runs driven in. Haverman also finished with two RBIs, marking her third, two-plus RBI game.
The Lady Bucs let things slip away in game one as they left six runners on and could not give Hardy any run support after she tossed a gem.
Hardy went the distance, allowing two runs on three hits and struck out 12; however, one costly pitch to Campbell's Shalya Cullum proved to be the difference maker. Cullum's two-run homer to left in the first inning gave the Lady Camels all the offense they needed and walked away with a 2-1 victory.
ETSU cut things in half in the bottom of the first on Hackworth's RBI single to left - which scored Jett after she took advantage of a dropped third strike and reached on a passed ball.
The Softball Bucs missed a chance to break the game open in the third as they failed to take advantage of three hits in the inning. Cason began the frame with an infield single to short and advanced to second on Jett's single through the left side. ETSU could have seen a bases loaded, no out situation, after Briana Knight (Brier, Wash.) singled through the legs of Cullum at third. Unfortunately, head coach Andrea Mangrum gave Cason the green light at third and she was gunned down by Courtney Quinn's strike at home for the first out. Despite a failed hit-and-run opportunity by Massenzo, Jett and Knight each moved into scoring position on the strikeout. However, Stanley fanned Hackworth to end the inning -which left the game-tying and go-ahead runs stranded.
After Hardy continued to keep her team in the game, the Lady Bucs had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh. Junior outfielder Kate Powell (Johnson City) reached with a one-out single through the right side and stole second, placing herself in scoring position. Cason's two-out single to left-center advanced Powell to third, but Stanley closed the door on ETSU as she forced Jett to ground out for the third and final out.
Hardy - who recorded her 200th strikeout in the second inning - finished the day with 19K's, moving her season total to an impressive and already new program-high 215. The Rocklin, Calif. native has been en fuego in her last eight starts as she has won seven of them and has posted a 1.24 ERA (10 ER/56.2 IP) with 73 strikeouts during this impressive run.
Cason led the way for ETSU today as she hit a blistering .833 (5-for-6) with two runs scored, while Hackworth accounted for four of the Lady Bucs' eight RBIs. Jett scored three of the teams' nine runs and Knight, Haverman and Massenzo each had one extra-base hit.
With the split, the Lady Bucs move to 24-28, 8-10 in the Atlantic Sun, while Campbell goes to 33-19, 8-8. ETSU is currently holding onto the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament and lead sixth-seeded Jacksonville by three games and Gardner-Webb by four. Jacksonville has four conference games remaining (at Stetson and at Florida Gulf Coast) and G-Webb has six conference match-ups left (at Belmont, vs. Kennesaw State, at Campbell).
The Lady Bucs will be able to rest up this weekend and prepare for the 19th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies next Tuesday. ETSU faces Tech in the Stateline Classic at 6:30 p.m. from Whitetop Creek Park, located across the street from the Bristol Motor Speedway. For driving directions to the field visit, http://www.bristoltn.org/whitetopcreek.cfm.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.