by Benny Benton
MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – Barton College sophomore Hannah Jones limited rival University of Mount Olive to two runs in her 15th complete-game pitching performance of the season on Tuesday, leading the Lady Bulldogs to a 4-2 win in the first half of a Conference Carolinas doubleheader at Nancy Cassell Field.
Mount Olive, which saw an eight-game winning streak snapped with the loss, roared back to claim the nightcap, 13-1, in five innings after producing 12 hits, the biggest a pinch-hit grand slam by Alyssa Pickle.
The split left the Trojans with a mark of 25-27 overall and 13-9 in league play, while Barton moved to 24-25 overall and 11-11 in the conference.
Barton completed the regular-season – its first under head coach Junior Bailey – with its first .500 conference record since 2003. The 11 wins matched the program record for conference wins in a season in the NCAA Division II era, a mark last achieved in 1999.
The victory could also play an important role in BC's seeding for the upcoming Conference Carolinas Tournament.
Game 1: Barton 4, Mount Olive 2
Jones (12-8) gave up nine hits and three walks in her complete-game effort, but worked out of trouble on numerous occasions, including a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the final inning.
She also left the bases full of UMO runners in the third inning and stranded runners in scoring position in three other innings.
The Lady Bulldogs led throughout after giving Jones a lead in the top of the first. Sydney Speight led off the game with an infield single to third base, and Sierra Hearp singled to left-center one out later. Brittany Jacobs moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt, and senior Taylor Bowden followed with a clutch two-out single up the middle to drive both of them home.
Barton extended its lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Megan Kelly walked, stole second and scored on a single to left by Hearp.
The Trojans responded in the bottom of the fifth, getting three straight singles to open the inning and load the bases. One out later, Kayla Allen singled to left to drive in two runs. However, the runner who tried to score all the way from first on the hit, Kristin Power, was gunned down at the plate on the throw from left by Speight, keeping Barton in the lead, 3-2.
BC then gained a valuable insurance run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit. A walk, a throwing error on a bunt attempt, and a sacrifice fly by Samantha Santmyers gave Barton a 4-2 advantage.
Power singled to lead off the final frame for Mount Olive, and Callie Ferrell doubled to left-center two batters later to put the tying run in scoring position with one out. Jones retired Allen on a shallow foul ball down the left field line, then walked cleanup hitter Anna Ingram to load the bases before getting a grounder to second base to end the game.
Allen, Power and Kelsey Hayes each had two of UMO's nine total hits.
Barton managed six hits off Mount Olive pitcher Karen Foley (3-10), who walked three and struck out one. Hearp had two of the six hits.
Game 2: Mount Olive 13, Barton 1 (5 inn.)
The Trojans scored just three batters into game two off Barton starter Makayla Meeks (5-7), as Power singled through the left side with one out and came home on Allen's double to left-center.
Mount Olive, one of 10 NCAA Division II teams in the country with more than 100 steals, pulled off two double-steals in the inning, including one of home. It also added another double by Foley and took advantage of two BC errors in claiming an early 5-0 lead.
The Trojans added four more in the third off reliever Hearp on the two-out, pinch-hit grand slam by the freshman Pickle, who more than doubled her season RBI total with the four gained on the grand slam, her first career homer.
UMO's assault continued in the fourth, as it tacked on four more runs on four hits and three more stolen bases.
Barton produced its lone run in the top of the fifth when Speight reached on a fielder's choice, advanced to third on a single to right by Kelly and scored on a single up the middle by Hearp.
Kelly went 3-for-3 in the contest with a stolen base. Jacobs added two hits among the nine total collected off Mount Olive pitcher Emily Chaisson (12-10).
Barton will compete in the Conference Carolinas Tournament at Springwood Park in Burlington, N.C., beginning Friday, April 28. The Lady Bulldogs will enter the event as either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed, depending upon the outcome of Erskine College's six remaining league games.