February 17, 201312345678RHE
Win: Alissa Birkhimer (2-1) 1.200002
Loss: HARRELL (2-3) 7.163127
FOX (ETSU) 402000
BAIRD (ETSU) 302000
Rachael Ratcliffe (AKRON) 402100
Softball’s comeback nipped in extras by Akron, 3-2
Softball’s comeback nipped in extras by Akron, 3-2
Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bucs post 3-2 record at CofC Classic

MT PLEASANT, S.C. (Feb. 17, 2013) – The ETSU softball team closed out the College of Charleston Classic on Sunday afternoon from Patriots Point against Akron, bringing another game to extra innings but ultimately falling in eight, 3-2.

A first-inning error came back to nip ETSU (3-6), allowing what would have been a solo home run for Akron’s (4-3) Alissa Brikhimer turn into a two-run homer. The Bucs cut into the lead in the second and used some late magic to tie the game in the seventh, but the inability to bring a run home in the eighth was costly as the Zips escaped.

“It was a tough one to take,” ETSU head coach Brad Irwin said. “We were right there with another shot to come back and win, but the execution wasn’t there in a couple areas. Sam Harrell threw well enough for us to win, but we didn’t get it done.”

Freshman starting pitcher Sam Harrell (Okeechobee, Fla.) went 7.1 innings, allowing just one earned run while striking out seven. Harrell (2-3) had an outstanding weekend overall, throwing 22.1 innings, striking out 15 and allowing just two earned runs for an ERA of 0.63 in three starts.

The Bucs still walk away with a 3-2 record from the College of Charleston Classic in what was a turnaround weekend for the young team.

“Overall, we come out of the weekend feeling better about ourselves,” Irwin added. “We showed that we can battle back and come from behind in ball games. We hit the ball pretty well most of the weekend and a lot of people had some good games at the plate.”

The Bucs were a point away from hitting .300 over the five-game weekend. Along with the .299 average, ETSU outscored its opponents 23-20 and held the opposition to a 2.18 ERA. That’s a drastic improvement from the Plainsmen Invite, where the Bucs only hit .221, were outscored 31-8 and allowed the opposition 5.80 earned runs per seven innings.

The weekend’s top offensive performer was junior Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.), who hit .647 (11-17) with three runs, four RBIs, four doubles and her first home run of the season. Junior Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) was impressive as well, hitting .529 (9-17) with three runs and three RBIs, while also pitching to the tune of a 2.47 ERA, striking out 11 over 11.1 innings in the circle. Senior Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.) hit .500 (5-10) with two runs and five RBIs.

Aside from the power numbers, sophomore slapper Nicole Fox (Peachtree City, Ga.) bounced back from a 2-for-13 opening weekend to hit .350 (7-20) in Charleston. Fox scored three times and was 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts.

Defensively, the Bucs did have five errors, but it was still an improvement from the nine committed through four games in Auburn.

As for Sunday afternoon, ETSU allowed Akron to get on the board in the very first inning and never gained a lead. Following an error from Baird at third, Birkhimer stepped up and homered to left to put the Zips on top, 2-0. Birkhimer would be the only earned run Harrell allowed in the game.

The Bucs got one of those runs back in their next turn at-bat. Wolff began the inning with a single up the middle and was moved over to third in the very next at-bat off a double from Baird. Yesterday’s game-one hero, Hartnett, stepped up and flew out to center, but hit it deep enough for Wolff to tag up and score. Baird tagged up and went for third, but was thrown out by Taryn Allmon to end any further damage.

Harrell and Akron’s starting pitcher, Erin Seiler, took over through the middle innings, combining to allow just five hits from the bottom of the second through sixth innings.

ETSU sparked another late rally in the seventh to force extras. Baird was the first to reach on a one-out double and was pinch run for by Lily Robins (Collierville, Tenn.). Hartnett singled to put runners on the corners and sophomore Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.) tied the game on a single to center.

It was all ETSU could muster though and after a harmless Akron half of the seventh the game went to the tiebreak.

The Bucs made it hard on themselves. Senior Sam Lower (Sebring, Fla.) led off and attempted to sacrifice the runner placed at second, Whitley Hensley (Erwin, Tenn.), to third. The bunt didn’t get down and was popped up to first base to hold Hensley. Fox then struck out swinging to end any threat of a sacrifice and Everett grounded out to end the inning.

Akron just needed to score its runner for the win and did. With one out and runners on second and third, Rachel Ratcliffe singled through the left side for the walk-off.

The ETSU softball team opens the home season next weekend, welcoming Siena College to Betty Basler Field.

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