In a game that saw two lights-out pitching performances, it came down to what happened out in the field.
No. 3 seed Georgia Southern committed two errors and left six runners on base Wednesday night and dropped to the losers bracket with a 2-0 loss to No. 6 UNC Greensboro in the night cap on the first day of the 2011 Southern Conference softball tournament at Eagle Field.
Seeds five, six and seven each knocked off a higher seed in first-round action.
"It was clear as can be before we even started. We saw two higher seeds get upset earlier," said GSU coach Maggie Johnson. "It happens. It’s the way this game goes, and we have a tougher road ahead of us now."
The Eagles (28-28) had their best scoring chance in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with nobody out.
Kelly Burnett singled and took second on a fielding error to lead off the inning, and Kayla Brooks drew a full-count walk. The bases were loaded when Andrea Tarashuk hit a grounder to UNCG shortstop Kaitlin Merkt. Merkt decided to go for the lead runner at third, and the throw was nowhere close, putting three Eagles on with nobody out.
Greensboro (24-30) starter Cory Mattson, who pitched the complete-game, three-hit shutout, turned up the juice, striking out GSU pinch hitter Tabby Douberly for the first out of the inning.
Jorie Walker attempted to get a run across with a one-out bunt, and Burnett was forced out at home. The Spartans got out of the jam when Marie Fogle grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
"A good pitcher is going to adjust to what our hitters are doing, and [Mattson] did," said Johnson. "We didn’t make the necessary adjustments to step up when we had runners on."
Georgia Southern’s starter, senior lefty Brianna Streetmon, nearly matched Mattson’s performance, allowing four hits in six-plus innings. The only earned run she was responsible for came across in the top of the seventh after she left the game.
She faced the minimum in the first, second, third, fifth and sixth.
"She threw a great game," Johnson said about Streetmon. "She’s a ground-ball pitcher, and we know one of our weaknesses has been speed at the plate — being able to be aggressive and make a play on the short stuff. In the end, that’s what hurt us. We shouldn’t expect our pitcher to have to go out and throw a shutout for us to have a chance to win the game, and that’s basically what we needed today."
Greensboro’s first run came unearned in the fourth. It was the only complete inning in which Streetmon did not face the minimum.
UNCG’s Aisha Lewis reached on a one-out, infield single, Alex Emeterio reached on catcher’s interference when her swing took the mitt off the hand of GSU catcher Mackenzie Williams and Merkt put runners on the corners with two out when she reached on a grounder that retired Emeterio at second.
The Eagles looked to be out of trouble when Jordan Jewett appeared to ground out, but the ball popped out of GSU first baseman Megen Smith’s glove to allow Lewis to score and give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
Greensboro got its second run in the seventh when Georgia Southern reliever Allie Miles walked Kristen Gabel with the bases loaded.
The Eagles face elimination against No. 2 Appalachian State today at noon. The Lady Mountaineers fell to the losers bracket after a 6-3 loss to Samford
Samford 6, ASU 3
In the biggest upset of Day 1 of the Southern Conference tournament, the No. 7 seed Samford Lady Bulldogs used a four spot in the top of the fourth to take the lead for good as they sent No. 2 seed Appalachian State to the losers bracket with a 6-3 win Wednesday evening at Eagle Field.
Trailing 3-2 entering the fourth, the Bulldogs used three walks and an error in conjunction with only one hit to take a three-run advantage.
Niclole Bobrowski got the win, entering the game in the third inning. She pitched 4.1 scoreless innings allowing only a hit and a walk to the Mountaineers.
Elon 7, Charleston 5
Caitlin McGowan and Tomeka Watson each hit a home run and Carleigh Nester drove in a pair of runs as No. 5 Elon held off No. 4 College of Charleston 7-5 Wednesday afternoon in Game 2 of the Southern Conference softball tournament.
The Lady Phoenix out-hit Charleston 13-4.
Furman 5, WCU 4
With elimination on the line, the No. 8 Furman Lady Paladins held off a late Western Carolina rally to win the play-in game of the Southern Conference tournament Wednesday morning at Eagle Field to advance to the eight-team, double elimination field and face No. 1 seed Chattanooga.
In the first inning, FU shortstop Jessie Homesley hit a two-run homer to open the scoring, and the Paladins built a 5-0 lead through five.
The No. 9 Lady Catamounts fought back, scoring four runs in the sixth, but Furman pitcher Hannah Bradley held off WCU in the seventh for the save.
UTC 4, Furman 0
The No. 1 seed of the Southern Conference tournament had no problem with No. 8 seed Furman, as the Chattanooga Lady Mocs blanked the Paladins 4-0 Wednesday afternoon to advance to the winners bracket.
Michelle Fuzzard pitched a gem for the Mocs, going five innings and allowing three walks and only one hit with three strikeouts.
Kandice Irwin pitched two perfect innings of relief to preserve the shutout.
The Lady Paladins, who won their way into bracket with a Wednesday morning win over Western Carolina, couldn’t capitalize on three UTC errors as they fell to the losers bracket.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.