CU softball opens MSC Championships with Rio Grande

Staff Reports • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:24 PM

Cumberland’s softball team will square off against Rio Grande at 9:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday to open play in the Mid-South Conference Championships at Millennium Park in Danville, Ky., as announced Sunday by the league office.

The Bulldogs represent the No. 5 seed in the tournament and will be the visitors in the contest versus the No. 4-seeded RedStorm. The two squads finished the season with the same MSC record at 21-15, but Rio Grande proved the higher seed after tiebreakers.

Cumberland and Rio Grande will be just four days removed from a twin-bill split to close out the regular season at the CU softball field. CU took the first contest, 5-4, on a walk-off strikeout, but dropped game two, 6-3, to force the tiebreaker scenario.

Three other games will take place during the mid-morning on Wednesday during the opening round. Top-seeded Lindsey Wilson will face off against No. 8 University of the Cumberlands at 9 a.m. CDT. No. 2 Georgetown College will take on No. 7 St. Catharine at 11 a.m., and No. 3 Campbellsville will do battle with No. 6 Shawnee State.

Four more games will be played in the evening on Wednesday, a pair of winner’s bracket games and two in the consolation bracket. The winner’s bracket final and four consolation games will be played on Thursday, with the championship game and if-necessary game slated for Friday.

Lady Bulldogs split with Rio Grande in regular-season finale

Cumberland’s softball squad earned a 5-4 victory in a bizarre finish in game one of a twin bill with Rio Grande, before falling, 6-3, in game two, as the RedStorm used a five run inning to earn the split Saturday at the CU softball field.

In game one, trailing 4-2 headed to the bottom of the seventh, Cumberland (35-18, 21-15 Mid-South) plated three runs for the walk-off win. The first two runs came innocuously enough on an RBI single from Shawnee Kirk and another RBI knock from redshirt junior Jessica Roper.

The craziness began on that play following Roper’s single, as the left fielder sailed the ball over third base when no Cumberland runner was moving. The error allowed Kirk to advance to third with two away in the frame.

Senior Emily Nicholson came to the plate next, but struck out on an off-speed pitch in the dirt. The White House native took off for first base on the dropped third strike, as the Rio Grande (29-18, 21-15) players began heading toward the dugout. Unfortunately for the visitors the out had yet to be recorded. Nicholson ended up safe at first and Kirk touched home safely for the walk-off strikeout.

The first six innings of the game were much simpler than the final frame, as the RedStorm jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an RBI groundout from Jenna Jones.

Cumberland took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the third, plating a pair in the inning. Freshman Crystal Bryant reached first after being hit by a pitch and moved to second on a groundout from Victoria Bennett.

Senior Devon Jamerson reached thanks to an error as the next batter, but a fielder’s choice from Kirk caught Bryant at the plate. After a four-pitch walk to Jessica Roper to load the bases, Emily Nicholson delivered with a two-out knock back up the box to give CU a 2-1 advantage.

The RedStorm did not trail for even a full inning, responding with three unearned runs in the top of the fourth. Two errors in the inning, including a bases-loaded blunder, allowed the first to runs to scamper home and catcher Kim Rollins added a sacrifice fly to plate one more, pushing the score to 4-2, where it remained until the bottom of the seventh.

Rio Grande again jumped ahead, 1-0, in the first inning of game two, scoring on an RBI double to the left-center field gap from Jenna Jones which scored Jessi Robinson.

This time, CU did not waste any time taking the lead, taking advantage of an error to score twice. Jamerson began the bottom of the first with a walk. One out later, Roper single up the middle and Nicholson followed with a fielder’s choice, leaving runners on first and second.

Freshman Tessa Tomaselli loaded the bases, drawing a walk with a full count, and a fielding error with Kaleigh Pearce at the plate prompted Roper and Nicholson to each score. The score remained 2-1 through four innings.

In the top of the fifth, senior starter Jessica Lozano recorded two quick outs sandwiching another Bulldog error. That error would come back to haunt, as a walk and a single loaded the bases. Another walk tied the game and Haley Gwin delivered the crushing blow, a homer over the left-center field wall to make it 6-2.

Roper answered in the bottom of the frame with a solo shot, but Cumberland was unable to get anything else going, collecting just one hit in the final two innings. In total, Rio Grande pitching limited the Bulldogs to just five hits in the contest.

The game marked the final contest of the regular season for both squads, who will square off once again on Wednesday in the opening round of the Mid-South Conference Championship. Rio Grande will represent the No. 4 seed with the Bulldogs ranked No. 5.

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