Courtesy: Coastal Carolina Athletics
CONWAY – With a four-run sixth-inning rally in the first game and a walk-off two-run home run by Sara Rasley in the second, the Coastal Carolina softball team swept a doubleheader against Longwood 4-1 and 3-1 on Friday afternoon to take over the lead in the Big South Conference.
The victories moved the Chanticleers to 32-13 overall and 14-3 in the Big South play, while Longwood fell to 31-11 and 14-5 in the conference.
Coastal also celebrated Senior Day between the two games and seniors Brooke Donovan and Jessie Winans delivered the big hits to key the victory in the opener. Donovan's single in the sixth inning tied the game and Winans' two-run double put the Chants ahead.
Kory Hayden then homered in the second game before Rasley gave the Chants' the dramatic win. Winans drew a leadoff walk from Longwood starter Elizabeth McCarthy in the inning. Rasley then took two pitches for balls before fouling off a bunt attempt. She then faked to bunt again, but brought the bat back and hammered the ball over the left-field fence for her second home run of the season.
Kiana Quolas and senior Ashley Bagwell, meanwhile, combined to limit the conference's top batting team to just three hits in each of the games. Quolas went the distance and struck out nine in the first one and then picked up her 20th victory of the season with just four pitches in relief in the second game. Bagwell went 6 2-3 innings before Quolas came on to get a key strikeout in the top of the seventh.
Longwood took its only lead of the day in the third inning of the first game, thanks mostly to the speed of Casey Lifsey on the bases. After starting the inning with a single on a liner off the glove of Hayden, Lifsey beat the throw to second on a bunt by leadoff hitter Emily Murphy. A throwing error then loaded the bases for slugger Megan Baltzell. Catcher Amanda Daneker blocked a pitch in the dirt to keep the ball in front, but it rolled far enough away to allow Lifsey to be able to slide in ahead of the tag and score on the wild pitch. Quolas responded by striking out Baltzell and the next two Longwood hitters to limit the damage.
Lancers' starter Libby Morris worked around a single by Daneker in the bottom of the third and retired the side in order in both the fourth and fifth, but the Chants got to her in the sixth with five hits. With one out, Daneker reached on an error and senior pinch-runner Courtney Howell stole second. Hayden then dropped a single into shallow right to put runners on the corners. Donovan singled up the middle to score tie it and Winans followed with her double to the gap in right-center to give Coastal the 3-1 lead. After a fielder's choice for the second out, senior Desiree Zaragoza kept the inning going with an infield single, moving Winans to third and Bri Chiusano singled to center to make it 4-1.
Quolas then retired the first two batters in the top of the seventh and followed an infield single with her final strikeout to seal it. Chiusano, Daneker and Winans each led the way with two hits in the game for Coastal. Morris took the loss, allowing four runs – two of them earned – on nine hits.
Backed by defenses that made several spectacular plays behind them, Bagwell and McCarthy shut down each team's offense for most of the second game, except for solo home runs. Hayden struck first in the bottom of the fourth, hitting the first pitch of her at-bat with two outs over the fence in left-center for a 1-0 CCU lead. It was the 46th homer of her career and 16th of the season, setting a career high.
Murphy countered in the top of the fifth with two outs, hitting her seventh of the season over the fence in center to tie it.
Bagwell bounced back to work a perfect sixth before Longwood threatened in the seventh. Daneker erased a fielding error by throwing out the runner trying to steal second, but back-to-back walks with two outs put Lancers on first and second. Quolas entered and quickly struck out Murphy to keep it tied and set Coastal up to win it in in the bottom of the inning.
Chiusano and Hayden each had two of the Chants' six hits in the game. Chiusano has now reached base in 20 straight games and has hits in the last nine, while Donovan had one single and has now hit safely in eight straight.
Bagwell struck out six and walked three in the game. McCarthy suffered the loss, allowing three earned runs, striking out and walking four.