BURLINGTON, N.C. – Lees-McRae College pulled off the biggest upset of the first day of the Conference Carolinas Tournament, knocking out third seeded North Greenville University. The eighth seeded Bobcats scored early, and held on late, as the Crusaders had the winning run on second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, but pitcher Charlie Dutton got the final two outs to give Lees-McRae the 4-3 victory.
Lees-McRae (9-36) got on the board in the first inning as Valarie Hickey sparked a rally with a one-out walk. She later scored on a fielding error and Sadie Lagle made the score 2-0 when she scored on an illegal pitch.
The Crusaders (27-16) manufactured a run in the third inning when Megan Johnson ripped leadoff single up the middle and was sacrificed to second. She then moved to third base on a groundout, and scored on a throwing error to cut the North Greenville deficit t to 2-1 after three innings.
However, the Bobcats extended their advantage in the fifth inning when Jessica Smith and Hickey registered hits around and out. Lagle then plated both runners when she ripped a double to right field, giving Lees-McRae a 4-1 lead after five innings.
North Greenville threatened with a pair of runners in each the fifth and sixth inning before finally breaking through in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Bobcats changed pitchers to start the frame, and the strategy worked early as Dutton struck out the first batter she faced. However, the next batter, Sarah Armstrong crushed a home run to right field to give the Crusaders hope. Rachel Glazebrook then worked a walk before Morgan Roach singled through the left side. A Bobcat error loaded the bases, for Jordan Farmer who rolled a single through the left side to score a run and put the tying winning run in scoring position. However, Dutton then got a strikeout before inducing a groundout to give Lees-McRae the win and eliminate North Greenville from the tournament with the 4-3 victory.
Farmer and Armstrong led the Crusader offense, each going 3-for-3 in the contest while Johnson went 2-for-4 in the loss. For Lees-McRae, Taylor Billings went 2-for-3 to lead the offense while Lagle drove in two and Hickey scored twice. Cassie Sheppard earned the win after tossing six innings, allowing just one run on seven hits. Dutton threw the final inning to earn her second save of the season.
With the win, Lees-McRae will face the loser of the University of Mount Olive and Limestone College game on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.