Softball splits with Mercer in regular season finale
Friday, April 27, 2007

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 27, 2007) - After dropping a 4-3 nine inning heartbreaker to Mercer in game one, the ETSU softball team bounced back nicely in game two as they shutout the Bears 8-0. The Bucs rallied back from a three-run deficit in the first game, but Crystal Condra's two-out RBI single proved to be the game winner; however ETSU's bats lit up in the nightcap, tallying seven runs in the final two innings to capture the victory in five innings.


With the split, ETSU (25-27, 10-8 A-Sun) currently holds the number three seed in next month's Atlantic Sun Tournament, while Mercer (13-42, 6-10 A-Sun) clinched a berth to the tournament with its win in game one. The Bucs can move into the number two slot if Mercer sweeps Gardner-Webb tomorrow in Boiling Springs, N.C.


In game two, the Bucs opened things up with a four-run third and a three-run fourth, which ended the contest with the mercy rule after ETSU led 8-0.


ETSU used a little small ball strategy to plate its first run in the second as Briana Knight (Brier, Wash.) led off the inning with a walk and quickly moved over to second on Jessie Hackworth's (Clinton, Tenn.) sacrifice bunt. The moved paid off on the very next play as sophomore Mary Catherine Vercoe's (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) single to right center scored Knight from second, putting the Bucs up 1-0. Freshman Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) flashed some leather in the bottom half of the inning as she robbed Holly Oglesbee from a potential RBI, with a sensational diving catch in center.


The fun continued from there, as the Bucs forced the Bears to make two pitching changes in the third. Small ball came into affect again, when Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) led off the inning with a single to left and Amanda Haverman's (Kirkwood, Mo.) sac bunt advanced Massenzo to second. After a costly error by Oglesbee, Vercoe drove in Massenzo on a sacrifice fly to center. The Bucs made Mercer pay for prolonging the inning as Stephanie Gaynord's (Manassas, Va.) double to left center gave ETSU a 4-0 lead as it brought home Hackworth and Knight. The double led to Mercer's second pitching change, but freshman Cason greeted April Cunningham with a RBI single to left, which gave the Bucs a five-run cushion. 


After Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) sent the Bears down in order in the fourth, the Bucs closed out the game, by scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back bases loaded walks scored the first two runs of the inning, and Gaynord's sacrifice fly pushed the eighth and final run across the plate.


Gilbert retired three of the final four Mecer hitters she faced to end the game, and improved to 10-13 after tossing her second complete game shutout of her career. Nikki Bylak, the winner in game one, suffered the loss after allowing three runs on five hits in 2.1 IP.


The Bucs fell behind early in game one as the Bears plated one run in the third and two more in fourth, but a strong ETSU rally tied the game at three, when Cason's RBI single scored Massenzo from third in the sixth. Massenzo reached base by smashing a double to left, and advanced to third when Stephanie Cope (Maryville, Tenn.) reached on a fielder's choice. Kate Powell's (Johnson City) at-bat proved to be critical as her soft tap hugged the third-base line, which loaded the bases, leading to Cason's run scoring single.


Freshman Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) worked out a jam in the seventh, as she left runners on first and second, after retiring the next two Mercer hitters she faced. Hardy continued to flirt with danger as the Bears had runners on second and third with only one out, but she got Kelley Bretscher to tap one right back to the mound, which led to Jena Ellis to be tagged out at home. The Rocklin, Calif. native then ended the inning by getting Mercer's best hitter, Jamie Madruga, out on strikes.


Mercer finally broke the 3-3 game in the ninth, as they took advantage of Kelley Talamantes' leadoff walk, when Crytal Condra drove her in on a two-out single to left. ETSU had the game-tying run aboard in the ninth, as Katy Jett (Talbot, Tenn.) recorded a two-out single to left, but Bylak forced Caitlin Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) to ground out to third for the final out of the game.


Despite going the distance, Hardy suffered her second loss of the season (5-2) after allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. Bylak (4-8) pitched 4.2 IP of relief and allowed only one run on four hits for the win.


ETSU will now have the next week and a half off before heading down to DeLand, Fla., for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. First round action begins on Thursday, May 10. Be sure to visit for game times and pairings as they will be announced next week.