FMU's 5-run inning drops Carson-Newman 5-0

Florence, SC - From Francis Marion University:

DAHLONEGA, GA – No hit for four innings, fourth-seeded Francis Marion University woke the bats with a five-run fifth inning and went on to claim a 5-0 win over 25th-ranked and fifth-seeded Carson-Newman College, Friday evening in the opening game of the NCAA Division II Southeast Dahlonega Regional Softball Tournament at Haines & Carolyn Hill Stadium.

The Patriots (35-14) used six hits and an error to score their five tallies and get past the Eagles (36-11).

The game was a pitching duel for the first four innings as FMU senior southpaw Michaela Wolf and Carson Newman's Mary Shealy combined to allow just three base runners.

The key play in the game came in the bottom of the fifth inning, turning the game in Francis Marion's favor. FMU senior leftfielder Jessica Birchmeier led off the inning and bounced out to second base, but an illegal pitch was called and Birchmeier got a second chance. She took advantage of the opportunity, lining a shot up the middle for the Patriots' first hit of the game.

After a sacrifice bunt moved Birchmeier to second, junior shortstop Jessica Hogan drove home the first run of the game with a one-hopper off the left field fence, just to the left of the 210-foot sign. Hogan's hit seem to get the offense going while deflating the hopes of the Eagles. "Jessica did a great job," said FMU head coach Stacey Vallee. "She came up real big for us."

Junior designated player Cea Knox followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0, knocking  Shealy out of the game. Sophomore centerfielder Destinea Schneider followed with a slap single to left to put runners at first and third, and Kat Beauvais upped the margin to 3-0 with a single to left. Junior right fielder Chelle Phillips followed with an RBI single to center, scoring Schneider, and Beauvais came around to score on the play when the catcher committed a throwing error.

"I felt good about our hitting, they just weren't falling (earlier in the game)," said Vallee. The five runs were more than enough for Wolf (21-8), who allowed just one hit over the final two frames to complete the shutout. Wolf was in control throughout, allowing just two hits while striking out seven. Wolf kept the Eagles off balance with a fastball and a deadly change-up.

"We wanted to mix it up," said Vallee. "We had a scouting report and we wanted to mix it up. Michaela did a good job."

The Patriots finished with six hits as Beauvais, Phillips, Birchmeier, Hogan, Knox and Schneider each had a hit.

The Patriots will take on the winner of the North Georgia and Queens University f Charlotte game on Saturday at 2:30 pm. "We've played both of them so we know what they have," said Vallee.  The Patriots are making their second NCAA Tournament appearance in three seasons.

Leah Price and Ashley Boyd had the only two hits for the Eagles. Shealy (15-7) ended up re-entering the game as a pitcher and worked 5.1innings. She allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, while striking out one.

The Eagles will try to stay alive in the regional, playing in a loser's bracket game at 5 p.m. on Saturday.