Jeremy Zalacca - Director of Athletic Communications
BURLINGTON, N.C. - A pair of extra inning walk offs kept the Pfeiffer softball teams' hopes alive for a second straight Conference Carolinas Tournament title on a hot Saturday afternoon. The Falcons outlasted Lees-McRae 2-1 in 10 innings to start the day and then topped Limestone 5-4 in nine innings. Needing a third straight win on a 90 degree day, Pfeiffer beat Erskine 7-2 in the night cap and move on to tomorrow's championship round to play North Greenville.
Needing three wins on the day to stay alive, it looked like Pfeiffer wouldn't last past the opener. The tournament's No. 8 seed Lees-McRae (15-34) had a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth and the Pfeiffer bats were silent for a second straight game. However, the momentum swung as Kiana Millsaps stroked an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to put Pfeiffer on the board.
Seven innings wouldn't be enough to end the game, which went on to extras. Pfeiffer loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh but the Bobcats turned a pitcher to catcher to first basemen double play to stay alive.
Neither team made much noise until the bottom of the 10th. Pfeiffer's Kaleigh Troutman started the inning with a single up the middle and moved to second on Vada Blue Sherrill's base knock. With one out, the bases were loaded for team RBI leader Makenzie Pennell who hit a single to right field to end the game.
Sydney Poole started and went four innings and allowed just one run. Freshman Caitlin Christian entered and pitched the final six innings to earn her 11th win. Christian allowed just one hit over her six scoreless frames and struck out three.
In a game many thought would be in the championship, Pfeiffer and Limestone met in an elimination game. An Emma Tuttle 2-RBI single gave the Falcons an early 2-0 lead but the Saints would respond with a three spot in the top of the third.
Rachel Crowder's single in the bottom of the fourth evened the contest but Limestone once again jumped ahead with a single run in the top of the sixth.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, Pfeiffer trailed 4-3 but Stephanie Fortner led off the frame with a walk. A double from Pennell put runners on second and third with no one out. After one out, Chadler Walker scored Fortner with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at four and send a second consecutive game to extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth, Limestone had the bases loaded with one out but Christian wiggled out of trouble with two fly outs to keep the game tied at four. For the second time in two innings, Walker would pate a run on a sacrifice fly, this time in walkoff fashion to move Pfeiffer on in elimination play.
Christian was once again a hero in the circle, tossing seven innings and allowing one run on six hits. The freshman struck out five batters and threw 13 innings over two games.
30 minutes later, the Falcons were up again, this time taking on an Erskine team that blanked them 3-0 yesterday. The Falcons started sluggish, trailing 1-0 after three. Millsaps' RBI double evened the game at one and set the stage for a huge fifth inning. Thanks to a misplay and a few perfectly placed balls, Pfefiffer erupted for six runs on five hits and took advantage of three Flying Fleet errors to blow the game open. The Falcons would go on to win 7-2.
Kennedy Lester earned the win by tossing 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. Christian went two more innings and finished the day by allowing two runs in 15 innings. Kaitlin MacMillan started and gave up one unearned run in 3.1 innings.
The Falcons advance to their second straight championship game and face North Greenville at noon. The Falcons need to win twice to capture the 2017 Conference Carolinas Tournament title as the Crusaders are unbeaten in tournament play.