by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College softball team produced a doubleheader sweep of visiting Erskine College on Saturday, winning both ends of the Conference Carolinas matchup by identical 2-1 margins.
Taylor Martin, a freshman from Richlands, N.C., drove in three of Barton's four runs on the day. Martin went 4-for-5, including a two-out, two-run single in the second inning of game one that turned out to be the game-winning hit.
The sweep, Barton's first over the Flying Fleet since a pair of 1-0 wins in Wilson almost exactly 10 years ago on March 27, 2007, moved the Lady Bulldogs (18-19, 5-5) into a tie for fifth place in the tightly jumbled Conference Carolinas standings. Erskine (10-18, 4-6) slipped into a tie for seventh.
Game 1: Barton 2, Erskine 1
Barton managed just three hits in the opener against two Erskine pitchers, but the one big hit by Martin proved to be enough.
Taylor Bowden set the stage for Martin's hit by delivering a leadoff double to center off Erskine starter Candace Fitch (4-4). Hannah Jones drew a walk two batters later and moved to second on a groundout. Martin then singled over the head of the third baseman and in front of the left fielder to drive in both runs.
Erskine collected its lone run in its next at-bat. Kaitlyn Kerley, the number nine hitter in the order, was hit by a pitch to lead off the third. Pinch-runner Nicole Biles moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a two-out single to left by Fleet cleanup hitter Lydia Trexler.
The Flying Fleet put itself in position to tie the game in the fourth after Sydney Grimes produced a leadoff double and Chandler Crawford singled to center two batters later. However, Barton centerfielder Megan Kelly gunned down Grimes at the plate on a perfect throw to preserve the BC lead. The outfield assist was Kelly's fourth of the year, and marked the 18th of the senior's career.
Erskine put a runner on base in five of the seven innings, but Jones (8-5) kept the Fleet grounded to pick up her fourth win in her last five decisions. Jones gave up just five hits, walked one and struck out one in the complete-game effort.
Game 2: Barton 2, Erskine 1
Barton captured the nightcap in somewhat dramatic fashion, producing a run in the bottom of the seventh that was scored on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Bowden.
Morgan Pedley was hit by a pitch while pinch-hitting for Ashley Burkett to open the final frame, and Burkett re-entered the game to run at first base. Kelly followed with a single back up the middle that ended the day for Erskine reliever Sheridan Butcher (1-2), who had been pitching since the Barton fifth.
Jones advanced both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt before Erskine reliever Danica Newton walked Brittany Jacobs to load the bases, then issued a free pass to Bowden to force home Burkett with the winning run.
The Flying Fleet had taken a 1-0 lead in the third when Brittany Rhinehardt ripped a one-out triple into the gap in right-center and Brittany Reynolds followed with an RBI single.
However, Barton tied the game in the bottom of the fourth after Sierra Hearp led off the frame with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice by Jacobs and scored on a two-out single up the middle by Martin.
Both teams put runners on base in other innings, but neither side mounted another serious threat until the Barton seventh.
Erskine starter Sydney Davis scattered five hits in 4 2/3 innings of work, walked two and struck out two.
Barton starter Makayla Meeks also allowed five hits, walked one and struck out two 3 2/3 innings of work. She was relieved with two outs in the fourth by Hearp (7-4), who surrendered just one hit and struck out two in finishing off the game.
Barton continues a weekend homestand with a league doubleheader against Emmanuel College on Sunday starting at noon.