MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — The Lady Railsplitters opened the 2013 softball campaign as well as the Natalie Layden era on Saturday afternoon by suffering a pair of gut-wrenching losses to the Georgia College & State Bobcats in the Bobcat Blast. Lincoln Memorial University (0-2) fell 9-8 in a nine-inning thriller in the opener on a two-run, ninth-inning rally by Georgia College & State (2-0), before being upended 6-4 in the finale on the wings of a four-run fourth inning by the Bobcats.
Georgia College & State 9, Lincoln Memorial 8 (9 innings)
The Lady Railsplitters found themselves facing a 5-2 deficit after three innings of action, but rallied with a four-run outburst in the top of the fourth to take a 6-5 lead. Clinging to that one-run advantage, the Lady Railsplitters surrendered a run in the bottom of the sixth to knot the game. In extra innings, the Lady ‘Splitters gave themselves two opportunities to win with a run in the eighth and ninth frame. However, the Bobcats staved off the loss by answering with a run in the bottom of the eighth and put two on the board in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the victory.
Lincoln Memorial got the scoring started in the opening game with a two-run rally in the top of the second. Sarah Walz was issued a walk and Kristi Franz reached on a throwing error to start the inning, and Kelly Dreier singled to right center in the next at-bat to give the Lady Railsplitters bases loaded with no outs. Laura Taricano plated the first run of the game with a walk two batters later and Amanda Snow capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
Georgia College answered that frame by posting a three-run second and a two-run third. Lacey Najafi, Natalie Bellantoni and Whitney Okvist tallied back-to-back-to-back RBI hits to pace the scoring in the second, while Kelsea Martin came up with an RBI triple and Frankie Walls posted an RBI single in the third to give the Bobcats a 5-2 lead.
Following that scoring stretch for Georgia College, the Lady Railsplitters flipped the script with a two-out, four-run outburst in the top half of the fourth inning. Amanda Snow walked with two outs to get the rally started and advanced to second on a passed ball. After another walk was issued to Danae Reed, Cierra Mudd drove home Snow with a single. Jordyn Wilson came on to pitch hit in the next at-bat and she was walked to load the bases. Sarah Walz capitalized on that opportunity by clearing the bases with a double to put LMU back out on top, 6-5.
After a scoreless fifth for both sides and a scoreless top half of the sixth for the Lady Railsplitters, Abi LeRoy pounded an RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth for the Bobcats to knot the game at six apiece. LMU and Georgia College only recorded one hit combined in the seventh, as the game was forced into extra innings.
In the eighth, the Lady Railsplitters briefly assumed the lead following an RBI single by Laura Taricano, driving in Brianna Mulkey who reached third on a wild pitch. Holding a 7-6 lead, the Lady Railsplitters quickly set the first two Bobcat batters down in order before a two-out error derailed their ride to victory, plating Emily Hammond to knot the game at 7-7.
As was the case in the eighth inning, the ninth frame saw the Lady Railsplitters regain the lead on an RBI single by Sarah Walz, as she drove home Cierra Mudd to tally her fourth RBI and put LMU on top, 8-7. However, the Bobcats rallied once again in the bottom half of the ninth, sparked with an RBI single by Dani Gallucci to tie the game. After two singles and a fielder’s choice, Lacey Najafi came to the plate with two outs, put the ball in play and reached on another error by the Lady Railsplitters to force home the winning run.
The Lady Railsplitters compiled 10 hits in the contest with Sarah Walz headlining that effort with a three-for-four effort to go along with four RBIs. Kelly Dreier put in a two-for-four outing, while Laura Taricano notched two RBIs on a one-for-three effort. Lincoln Memorial only struck out two times in 34 plate appearances on the afternoon.
On the other side, Georgia College compiled 12 hits to narrowly edge the Lady ‘Splitters in that category. 10 different players tallied a hit in the contest, paced by Kelsea Martin and Lacey Najafi who each finished two-for-four on the day.
Kirstin Toole was handed the loss in the circle for the Lady Railsplitters after tossing six and a third innings of relief. Toole allowed six hits and only one earned run over that span, fanning two in her debut appearance for Lincoln Memorial. Samantha Smith made the start but was chased from the game after allowing six hits and five runs in two and a third innings pitched.
Abi LeRoy picked up the victory for the Bobcats with a strong five and a third innings pitched, allowing only six hits and no earned runs.
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Georgia College & State 6, Lincoln Memorial University 4
Bobcat started Marisa Boyette tossed a complete game, surrendering only three hits and four earned runs to lead Georgia College past the Lady Railsplitters in the finale. The Lady Railsplitters held a 4-1 advantage after three innings, however, the Bobcats scored five over the final seven innings to take the win.
The Lady Railsplitters opened quickly, pounding out three runs in the first frame en route to establishing an early 3-0 lead. Brianna Mulkey led off with a bunt-single while Amanda Snow and Sarah Walz walked in consecutive at-bats to load the bases with one out. Following a strikeout, Danae Reed was issued another free pass to plate Mulkey. Andrea Foster followed that with a two-run single in the next at-bat to plate two more.
The Bobcats got one of those runs back in the top of the second, however, Lincoln Memorial erased that run with a score in the bottom of the third. Amanda Snow sparked the rally with a leadoff single and advanced to second on a balk. Sarah Walz moved Snow to third with a sacrifice bunt and Cierra Mudd brought Snow home with a sacrifice fly out in the next at-bat.
The Lady Railsplitters’ 4-1 advantage was quickly dimished in the top of the fourth, as the Bobcats pounded out four hits and four runs to stride into the lead. Gallucci started the scoring with a solo home run, while Kristen Humphries and Kelsea Martin scored on an error and Natalie Bellantoni notched an RBI single to give the Bobcats a 5-4 lead.
Lincoln Memorial would be held without a hit for the final four innings and Georgia College added an insurance run in the top of the sixth with an RBI double by Bellantoni. The Lady Railsplitters were struck out in order in the seventh inning en route to a 6-4 loss to the Bobcats in the finale.
Kirstin Toole was saddled with another loss after coming on in relief, tossing three and two thirds innings and allowing two earned runs. Amanda Snow made the start in the circle for Lincoln Memorial, tallying three and a third innings pitched surrendering five hits and four runs.
Brianna Mulkey, Amanda Snow and Andrea Foster recorded the lone hits for the Lady Railsplitters in the loss. Dani Gallucci, Kelsea Martin, Kristen Humphries and Natalie Bellantoni recorded all eight hits for the Bobcats which each girl chipping in with two hits apiece.
The Lady Railsplitters will look to get back on track Sunday with a two-game set against Georgia Southwestern to cap their season-opening run in the Bobcat Blast.
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Lincoln Memorial…. 020 400 011 — 8 10 3
Georgia College…….. 032 001 012 — 9 12 1
Samantha Smith, Kirstin Toole(3) and Andrea Foster, Jordyn Wilson; Erica Bell, Abi LeRoy(4) and Lacey Najafi. W-LeRoy(1-0). L-Toole(0-1).
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Georgia College…….. 010 401 0 — 6 8 1
Lincoln Memorial…. 301 000 0 — 4 3 3
Marisa Boyette and Taylor Campbell; Amanda Snow, Kirstin Toole(4) and Jordyn Wilson. W-Boyette(1-0). L-Toole(0-2).