Tyler Waddell – Sports Information Graduate Assistant
BURLINGTON, N.C. – The No. 1-seeded Pfeiffer University softball team (41-5) split the opening day of the Conference Carolinas tournament on Friday, beating No. 8 seed Lees-McRae, 8-3 in game one but then falling to No. 5 seed Erskine in a 3-0 upset in game two.
Pfeiffer, which broke the school record for wins in a single season nearly two weeks ago, still has an opportunity to compete for the conference tournament championship due to double elimination rules.
Pfeiffer 8, Lees-McRae 3
After battling with Belmont Abbey for the final spot available in the tournament, it was Lees-McRae that found success first with a 2-0 lead after a first-inning solo shot from pitcher Kara Cunningham and then an RBI double from Caitlyn Ray in the second.
Four walks – three of which came in a row – and then a stolen base from Vada Blue Sherrill that led to another run allowed the Falcons to respond and tie the game in the bottom of the second. However, two consecutive singles in the top of the third forced coach Monte Sherrill to remove Kiana Millsaps from the circle, as he went to his most reliable relief option in senior Sydney Poole.
LMC added another run to make it 3-2, but would be shut down the rest of the way.
Chandler Walker smacked a two-run bomb in the bottom of the third to give Pfeiffer its first lead of the afternoon, and one that it would prove to secure. The Falcons assembled some much welcomed security in the fifth, taking advantage of two Bobcat errors and tallying four more runs off three hits to increase their lead to 8-3, which ended as the final score.
Sherrill went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, a walk and a stolen base. Walker finished 1-for-3 with her sixth home run of the season and also added a base on balls and a stolen base. Poole (14-0) remained unbeaten, surrendering three hits in 3.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Erskine 3, Pfeiffer 0
The bats went cold in game two of the afternoon, as Pfeiffer was shut out for the fifth time – matching its total for losses in 2017 – of the season.
Once again, the Falcons fell behind early after Sydney Smith hit a two-RBI single off Millsaps to give Erskine a two-run lead after the first half inning. That would prove to be enough to win, as Millsaps (8-2) recorded the loss after getting just two outs before Poole went back in for more relief. The Flying Fleet added another run in the fifth off a throwing error to conclude the scoring for the game.
Despite a conference-leading 6.8 runs per game entering the contest, Pfeiffer was only able to scatter seven hits in seven innings, and Stephanie Fortner and Millsaps combined for four of them. Poole went 6.1 innings and allowed six hits and no earned runs out of the bullpen, lowering her season ERA to 1.64.
Pfeiffer will match up with Lees-McRae again in day two of tournament action tomorrow at 12 p.m.