ROCK HILL, S.C. - Sutton Watson hurled a complete game and No. 5 Winthrop pushed across runs in both the second and third innings to hold off No. 9 Charleston Southern on Friday afternoon at Terry Field on the second day of the 2013 Big South Conference Softball Championships, 2-1.
"Sutton Watson threw a great game for Winthrop," commented head coach Shane Winkler on the Eagles' hurler. "You have to give her all of the credit in the world. She kept us off balance with her change-up and mixing it up with balls out of the zone and we really never squared one up all game long. Offensively, we showed fight in the seventh inning, but if we had shown that from the first inning through the seventh inning, we probably would have had a different result."
Winthrop advances on to Saturday afternoon when there will face the winner of the contest between No. 1 Coastal Carolina and either No. 2 Campbell/No. 6 Liberty tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 p.m. Charleston Southern falls to the loser's bracket and takes on No. 3 Longwood in an elimination game this evening, with first pitch at Terry Field set for 7 p.m. Longwood stayed alive this morning in an elimination game, defeating Gardner-Webb, 4-2, behind a walk-off two-run home run by Megan Baltzell.
"Longwood is going to score runs," said Winkler on tonight's matchup against the Lancers. "Jen is obviously starting to get a little gassed, but we plan on riding her as long as we can. We're going to have to come out and swing the bats. We're going to have chances to score and we need to make the adjustments. Tournament time is all about making adjustments. We didn't in the first game, and we're going to need to tonight."
In a classic pitchers' duel, Watson had just enough to edge CSU starter Jennifer Giles to pick up her 16th win of the season.
Watson went the distance for the Eagles, scattering five hits in allowing one run in the contest. She added three strikeouts to her totals in the victory.
Giles also went the distance in the contest for the Buccaneers, pitching six innings in allowing eight hits and two runs (one earned) in the loss. She added three strikeouts on the mound, while allowing two walks.
"Jen has been outstanding this tournament and she carried us as far as she could today," said Winkler on the performance of his sophomore ace. "We didn't back up her up on our end of the deal offensively and defensively. She pitched her heart out, was diving all over the place after balls and did everything we could ask of her. She's a warrior."
Giles opened the up the game right where she picked up from yesterday, as the sophomore right-hander retired Teja Durante and Kristy Noble on strikes, catching both batters looking. An infield single by McKenzi Corn gave the Eagles a runner early, but a groundout to second base ended the first inning.
Winthrop put the first run of the game across the plate in the bottom of the second inning, taking advantage of a CSU fielding miscue in taking the early lead.
Kathryn Eberlin led off the frame drawing a full-count walk and Alex White followed with a soft line drive single to centerfield, putting the first two Eagles' batters on base. A sacrifice bunt advanced both runners to scoring position and the next play saw a Christine DeWitt's ground ball glance off the glove of the CSU shortstop, allowing Eberlin to score on the play for the first run of the game. Giles rallied back, retiring the final two batters of the frame to limit the damage, but the Eagles still lead 1-0 after the first two innings were in the books.
The Eagles added a second run in the bottom of the third inning as Alex White sliced a single up the middle, driving in McKenzi Corn from second base ahead of the throw from Ari Tedesco to put the WU ahead, 2-0. Corn reached on a one-out single and advanced to second on Chelsey Schoenfeldt's base hit down the left field line before crossing the plate for Winthrop's second run of the game.
Winthrop starter Sutton Watson, in the meantime, cruised into the top of the fourth inning retiring the first 11 batters she faced in order before Jana Matthews blooped a single over the head of the WU second baseman with two outs in the fourth inning. Rother followed with a single down the left field line and Hayes Holdsworth followed with a blast down the left field line, landing over Corn's outstretched glove in fair territory for the RBI double, scoring Matthews on the play as the Bucs halved the Eagles lead.
Giles ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth inning as Winthrop loaded the bases with one out as DeWitt led off the frame with a walk, while Melanie Andrea and Durante connected on back-to-back singles to load the bases. However, the CSU defense rallied as Giles caught Noble looking at strike three, while Courtney Konyk chased down a fly ball in centerfield, while Melanie Stickney cleanly fielded a grounder at second to end the inning as the Bucs held the Eagles scoreless in the frame.
Both teams traded scoreless frames heading into the top of the seventh as Charleston Southern came into their last at-bats.
Rother provided the early blow in the inning, beating out an infield single to put the first runner on base. With Lizzy Olmstead on to run, Hannah Wagner connected on a one-out single to left centerfield, putting two runners on base for the Buccaneers against Watson. However, Watson kept the Bucs in the infield, getting Stickney and Natalie Yonan to hit back-to-back pop-ups to end the game in favor of the Eagles.