Piedmont Lady Lions softball finishes 15th in coach’s poll

By ZACH THOMASWICK

Contributing Writer

The Lady Lions Softball team finished their 2013 campaign ranked 15th in the NCAA Division III national coaches’ poll. The Lady Lions advanced to the NCAA National Tournament, marking the team’s third appearance in the last four seasons. Although the team did not earn an automatic bid since they were eliminated from the USA South Conference championship, the Lady Lions were rewarded with an at-large bid from the NCAA selection committee. The Lady Lions received the number six seed in the Salem Regional of the National tournament.

In the opening game of the Salem Regionals, the Lady Lions defeated 19th ranked Lynchburg College. Current senior pitcher Brittney Head received the win on the mound for the Lady Lions, allowing only one unearned run in the 4-1 victory. Offense contributions came on RBI hits from current junior Abby Atkinson, former senior Megan McClain, and current sophomore Olivia Duncan who drove in a pair of runs with her third hit of the contest. The win against Lynchburg set the Lions to face off against 4th ranked Emory Lady Eagles.

Current sophomore pitcher Jordan Ellingson took the mound against the Eagles. Emory took an early lead in the first inning, going up 1-0. The Lady Lions would finally break onto the scoreboard in the bottom half of the fifth, on an RBI single by Duncan, scoring current junior Whitney Wolfe. Emory would answer back in the next frame, pushing two more runners across the plate. The Lady Lions answered immediately back in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single from pitcher Ellingson and a base hit from former senior Taylor Morgan that drove in a pair of Lady Lions runners home putting the Lady Lions at a 4-3 advantage that they would maintain for the rest of the ballgame.

After winning the opening two games of the tournament, Piedmont was then matched against the number 1 team in the nation, the Salisbury University Seagulls. The bats never came a live in the contest, as the Seagulls blanked the Lady Lions en route to a 3-0 Lions loss, sending the Lady Lions to the losers bracket for the first time in the tournament, and setting up a rematch between the Lady Lions and the Emory Eagles.

The second match-up between the Lady Lions and the Eagles saw the Piedmont bats reawakenearlyinthegameas the Lady Lions put an early two runs on the board in the opening frame. Duncan added another RBI to her tournament total, and would also come around to score on an Eagleerror. In the bottom of the second, the Lady Lions would strike again in the bottom of the second with an RBI single by McClain that scored Ellingson, who again was on the mound for the Lady Lions. The Eagles would push two across in the bottom of the third, cutting the lead to 3-2. In the Piedmont 4th, former senior Jamie Dennis lined a double off the wall to drive in two more for the Lady Lions, and would score herself on an Emory throwing error, putting the score at 6-2. The Eagles would rally back in the 6th, scoring four runs to knot up the score at six apiece. Piedmont would have the final word, however, scoring the winning run on Senior Megan Kesler’s base hit in the bottom of the inning, as Piedmont would hold onto the lead through the 7th inning for 7-6 victory. The victory sent the Lady Lions to the championship match against Salisbury State.

Coming out of the loser’s bracket, to win the region, the Lady Lions would have to beat Salisbury in two consecutive games, whereas a single victory by the Seagulls would end the Lady Lions remark- able playoff run. Again, the Salisbury pitching silenced the Piedmont bats, ending Piedmont’s season, with an 8-0 loss. Kesler, Head and Duncan all received All-Tournament honors. The Lady Lions finished the season 34- 10 overall, and concluded the season with their second consecutive appearance in the regional championship game.