by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Barton College senior Megan Kelly delivered a dramatic two-out, two-run walk-off homer to give the Lady Bulldogs a 3-1 win over Emmanuel College and a split of their Conference Carolinas doubleheader Sunday at Jeffries Field.
Kelly nearly did the same in game one of the twinbill, but her flyball at the end of an epic 12-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded ended up being caught two steps from the fence in the left field corner, sealing a 5-4 win for the Lions.
The split left Barton 6-6 in league play and 19-20 overall, while Emmanuel moved to 4-8 in the conference and 8-18 overall.
Game 2: Barton 3, Emmanuel 1
Starting pitchers Erin Harden of Emmanuel and Makayla Meeks of Barton dominated most of game two, helped by several outstanding defensive plays from both teams.
Meeks surrendered just two hits to the Lions in the first six innings, while Harden took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and a one-hitter into the sixth.
Barton junior Brittany Jacobs, who had broken up Harden's no-hitter in the fourth with a leadoff single to left, collected another single in her next at-bat with one out in the sixth and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Taylor Martin. The next batter, Taylor Bowden, reached on an infield single to short, and Jacobs scored on the play when the throw from first was wild.
Emmanuel quickly got the run back in the top of the seventh, however. Pinch-hitter Madison Hopper led off the frame with a double into the gap in left-center. Noelle Petty then beat out a bunt single to third, and Alannah Long followed with an RBI single down the left field line to tie the game at 1-all.
With runners at the corners and still no one out, the Lions seemed primed for a big inning. However, Meeks used a foulout to third, a pop-up back to the mound on a bunt attempt, and a lineout to first to escape with the game still tied.
Sydney Speight, who had a big hit in game one for the Lady Bulldogs, reached base on a single with one out in the seventh and stole second base to reach scoring position. However, Speight was able to trot home with the go-ahead run two batters later when Kelly ripped the first pitch she saw from Harden over the fence in left for her third homer of the year.
The hit was just the fifth of the day for Barton off Harden (2-8), who walked three and struck out seven in the loss.
Meeks (4-5) also allowed just five hits in the complete-game victory, walking one and striking out one.
Jacobs had two of BC's five hits, while Long produced two of the five for EC.
Game 1: Emmanuel 5, Barton 4
Emmanuel took a 1-0 lead in the third inning of game one after getting a leadoff infield single by Meredith Reece and a two-out RBI single to left by Mary Baxter.
Barton, which had one hit in each of the first three innings but nothing to show for it, jumped in front in the bottom of the fourth with a big inning. Jacobs led off the frame with a single, and Martin added a single two batters later. Speight followed with a triple down the right field line, scoring both runners. The next batter, Samantha Santmyers, delivered a sacrifice fly to center to plate Speight and give Barton a 3-1 advantage.
However, the Lions roared right back with an even bigger inning in the fifth, scoring four times on four hits, the big one a two-run double off the bat of Crystal Busbee.
BC pitcher Hannah Jones worked out of a base-loaded jam in the seventh, getting Long to pop-up to second base to end the inning and keep the Barton deficit at 5-3.
The Lady Bulldogs got one of the runs they needed in the seventh when Jacobs singled to left and Martin doubled into the gap in left-center. Speight followed with an infield single to third, and Emmanuel pulled starter Taylor Saxon in favor of Harden, who then walked Santmyers to load the bases and bring Kelly to the plate.
Kelly fouled off six pitches in her duel with Harden, including the last five in a row before putting the ball in play with a towering drive down the left field line. However, the ball had too much arc to it, and dropped down just a couple of steps inside the fence, where Petty secured it for the final out.
The out earned Harden her first save of the year while protecting the win for Saxon (2-6), who gave up 13 hits and one walk while striking out seven. Jones (8-6) surrendered 12 hits in the loss for Barton while walking one and striking out three.
Jacobs, Martin and Speight each had three hits for the Lady Bulldogs, while Busbee collected three for the Lions.
Barton will return to action on Saturday, April 1, at Converse College as part of a two-day road trip.