JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 18, 2009) - The ETSU softball team had a chance to punch its ticket to the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament for the fourth straight season on Saturday afternoon; however, Jacksonville had different plans in store as the Dolphins handed the Lady Bucs a pair of losses at the ETSU Softball Complex. The Dolphins hung on to win game one 2-1, and capped off the sweep with a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.
Once again junior right-hander Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) did her job by keeping the Lady Bucs within reach in the opener, but with two outs and the bases juiced, Jacksonville's Sarah Sigrest forced junior catcher Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) into a game-ending grounder to hold on for the one-run victory. Then, with Hardy dealing through the first four innings of game two, the Dolphins' finally got to the Rocklin, Calif. native when catcher Ashley Mora belted a three-run home run and Jacksonville cruised to the victory.
A pair of wins over Jacksonville would have at least guaranteed the Lady Bucs a number five seed in next month's conference tournament, but after a pair of losses sent ETSU's record to 24-21, 5-11, the team will have to regroup and take care of business down in Georgia next weekend (at Mercer on Friday, at Kennesaw State on Saturday). The Dolphins, who wrapped up A-Sun play with a 23-29, 7-13 record, will now play the waiting game and see if they did enough to secure a position in the tournament.
After both teams were held scoreless for the first three and a half innings in game one, the Lady Bucs struck first to grab a 1-0 lead in the fourth. ETSU's small-ball tactics paid off, as junior Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) led off with a single to center field and her speed gave the Dolphins fits by stealing second and third. Jett scored on the stolen base at third when catcher Simone Bruemmer's throw to Amanda Schmidt went into leftfield and the speedster trotted home to take the early one-run advantage.
However, Jacksonville responded the very next inning by scoring two runs on four hits and took a 2-1 lead. The Dolphins led off with back-to-back singles to start the frame - and after Katarina Engler reached on a fielder's choice - Jacksonville's Katie Kelly drove in Amber Moseley on an RBI single to left-center. Hardy looked to have out number two in the inning when Mora hit a grounder to Chelsea O'Connor (Knoxville) at second, but when the freshman infielder decided go after the lead runner at third, every Dolphin player was called safe and led to a one-out bases loaded situation. Hardy did a great job by forcing Alexis Novak to tap into a grounder at short, which Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) fielded and fired to Massenzo to make the second out a home. Unfortunately, Jacksonville capitalized on the extra out and scored its second run of the inning on Schmidt's RBI single to left and grabbed the one-run lead.
The Lady Bucs had their chances in both the sixth and seventh innings, but Sigrest worked out of the jam in the seventh to pick up her 12th victory of the season. Sigrest allowed one run on eight hits and tossed 104 pitches (74 strikes). Hardy saw her record dip to 14-11 after allowing two runs on four hits while striking out five.
Cason led the Lady Bucs offensively by going 3-for-4 and extended her hitting streak to seven straight, while Jett also pitched in with a 2-for-3 effort and scored the lone ETSU run.
Game Two Recap
Once again the Lady Bucs jumped up to an early 1-0 lead, but it was Ashley Mora's three-run homer that changed the ballgame and lifted Jacksonville to a 6-2 victory and the sweep over ETSU.
Jacksonville's Ashley Iveson was effective in the circle, as she earned the victory after tossing 74 pitches. Iveson improved her mark to 9-10 by going the distance and allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out three and issuing zero walks. On the other hand, Marissa Hardy (14-12) was roughed up for four runs (three earned) on six hits in 4.2 IP.
ETSU jumped ahead 1-0 on Trisha Massenzo's one-out RBI single to center in the second. Massenzo's rope up the middle scored freshman Amy Campbell (Hixson, Tenn.) - who led off the inning with a single through the left side.
Hardy looked to be in control as she kept Jacksonville hitless for the first 3.1 innings, but Ashley Novak ended the no-hit bid with a double to left-center. However, Hardy kept her stranded on second by forcing two Jacksonville hitters into pop outs.
The Lady Bucs missed a scoring chance in the bottom of the inning when Katy Jett was tagged out at the plate on Hardy's one-out squeeze effort. Jett doubled down the leftfield line and advanced to third when Campbell reached on a fielding error by Iveson. Then, with one out and runners on the corners, ETSU put the squeeze on and Jacksonville was ready for it when Mora picked up the Hardy bunt and tagged a sliding Jett at the plate.
Hardy and the Lady Bucs forced Jacksonville into two quick outs to begin the fifth, but getting the third out wasn't as easy. Katarina Engler began the two-out rally with a single to second and Katie Kelley followed with another single to center - which brought Mora to the plate for the big hit. Mora worked a 2-0 count and took the third pitch out of the park for her first home run of the season and put Jacksonville ahead, 3-1. After Hardy gave up a double to Novak, sophomore Ashley Boyd (Chattanooga, Tenn.) entered in relief. Boyd looked to get the Lady Bucs out of the inning by inducing Amanda Schmidt into a grounder at second, but when Chelsea O'Connor had problems fielding the ball, Schmidt reached base safely and led to Novak coming in to plate the fourth run of the inning.
ETSU had a rally going in the sixth when Cheniece Cason led off with a single to center and moved her way into scoring position by stealing second. Senior outfielder Vicki McCoy (Ringgold, Ga.) then came up with a single back to the circle and moved Cason over to third. With runners on the corners and no outs, the Lady Bucs tried to get sneaky on the base paths, but their move backfired when Cason broke home and was caught stealing at the plate. Following the pickoff, Jett singled to short -
and with McCoy on third and Jett on first - ETSU executed the double-steal perfectly and the Lady Bucs made it a 4-2 contest. However, ETSU couldn't inch any closer as Iveson struck out Campbell and forced Boyd into an inning-ending pop out.
Jacksonville tacked on two more runs in the seventh and Iveson retired three of the four hitters she faced in the bottom of the inning for the victory.
Cason extended her hitting streak to eight straight games with her single in the sixth, while Jett capped off the series going 4-for-6 with a run scored and three stolen bases. For the series, ETSU tallied eight stolen bases and now have 57 on the season.
The Lady Bucs look to secure a bid to the conference tournament next weekend when they close out A-Sun play at Mercer and at Kennesaw State. ETSU travels to Mercer for a doubleheader on Friday at 4 p.m. in Macon and close out conference action at Kennesaw on Saturday (2 p.m.).
For more information on Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.