Thomas' blast lifts King past Limestone in extras

Photo taken by Rachel Burrus
Photo taken by Rachel Burrus

BURLINGTON, N.C. – The top two teams in Conference Caroilnas squared off in an elimination game on Sunday morning the conference tournament, and both pitchers were up to the task, Limestone College's Kelly Shearer, and Hannah Light for King University. The duo combined to allow just eight combined hits, and no runs through the first seven innings. In the eighth, Fallon Thomas broke through for the Tornado, crushing a three-run home run to left field. Light made that standup in the bottom of the inning, keeping King alive in the tournament.

Both King (29-25) and Limestone (31-18) loaded the bases in the first inning, but both pitchers showed resilience to escape the respective jams and keep the game scoreless. The Saints earned the next best scoring chance in the third inning when Ashley Cox laced a leadoff double to left center. Following a sacrifice bunt, Bailie Maybry reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second, putting runners on second and third with one out. However, Light got a strikeout before inducing a groundout back to the circle to keep the score knotted at 0-0.

Limestone again threatened again in the sixth, getting a pair of runners on base, but the conference's pitcher of the year was again up to the task to get out the jam.

King had third first real threat to score since the first inning in the seventh when Samantha Cole registered a two-out infield single and advanced to second on an error. However, Shearer got the next batter to flyout and end the inning.

Light worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings where Octavia Lewis-Rand led off the top of the eight with a bunt single. Following an out, Chrissy Melcher laced a single to left center to put a pair of runners on for Thomas. The senior crushed the 1-1 offering from Shearer for her seventh home run of the season, this one over the left field fence.

Light made the runs standup in the bottom of the frame as she worked around a two-out single, before striking out the final batter to keep the Tornado alive. The win moves King into the championship game against the University of Mount Olive and eliminates Limestone. The Tornado will have to defeat the Trojans twice to win the title.

For Limestone, Shearer tossed all eight innings, allowing the three runs on 105 pitches. Light tossed her third shutout in four games in the tournament, allowing just six hits in the win, and striking out seven on 127 pitches.

Melcher went 2-for-3 to lead the King offense while Thomas had the game-winning three-run home run. Cox led the Limestone offense, going 2-for-4 from the leadoff spot.