by Benny Benton
BANNER ELK, N.C. – Barton College junior Hannah Jones tossed a five-hit shutout in leading the Lady Bulldogs to a 2-0 road victory over Lees-McRae College in the first half of a Conference Carolinas doubleheader on Sunday at LMC Softball Field.
The Bobcats pounded out nine hits, including a triple and two home runs, in claiming a 9-1 six-inning victory in the nightcap to earn a split of the twinbill.
Barton finished the day with a record of 18-20 overall and 4-8 in league play, while Lees-McRae moved to 13-17 overall and 8-2 in the conference.
Game 1 – Barton 2, Lees-McRae 0
Barton scored the only runs of the contest in its first at-bat. Sierra Hearp reached base on an error to begin the game, and Taylor Martin beat out a bunt for a single. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch, and Hearp came home on a passed ball to give BC a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Jordan Blake singled to center, driving in Martin with the second run of the frame.
From there, Jones (8-7) did the rest. The Huntersville, N.C., resident struck out four and walked just one in posting her seventh complete-game and second shutout of the season.
Lees-McRae got runners into scoring position in each of the last four innings, including a runner to third base in the sixth, but each time Jones escaped.
The shutout was necessary for the Lady Bulldogs, as Barton managed just three hits in the contest off LMC ace Kara Cunningham (12-8), one of the league leaders in wins, ERA and strikeouts. Cunningham walked two and struck out six in the complete-game loss.
Barton did load the bases in the sixth on an error, a walk and an infield single by Jones, but Lees-McRae second baseman Chelsea Digregorio made a nice two-out defensive play on a grounder off the bat of Ashton Pegram that was first deflected by Cunningham.
Game 2 – Lees-McRae 9, Barton 1 (6 inn.)
The Lady Bulldogs drew three walks over the first two innings against game two starter Cassidy Largen, but could not take advantage and stranded all three baserunners.
Those missed opportunities proved to be costly, as the Bobcats jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second and then turned back to their ace, Cunningham, to slam the door on a Barton rally.
Lees-McRae used a leadoff walk from BC starter Hearp (4-5) and an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt to set the table for consecutive doubles by Cunningham and Noel Cassidy that drove in the three runs.
Barton cut the deficit to 3-1 in the top of the third when Hearp singled, moved to second on a wild pitch from Largen and scored on an errant throw following a sacrifice bunt attempt.
However, Cunningham (13-8) took the mound after a two-out walk by Largen, and allowed just one hit over the remainder the game. She did not walk a batter and struck out four in earning the win.
Lees-McRae broke the game open in the fourth off BC relievers Teagan Crosby and Pegram, hammering out five hits in a five-run frame, highlighted by an RBI triple from Cassidy and a two-run homer from Caitlyn Ray.
The Bobcats finished off the win via the eight-run rule in walk-off fashion, as Emily Merria drilled a two-out pitch from Pegram over the fence in left for her second homer of the year.
Brittany Jacobs had two of BC's three hits in the loss.
Barton will continue its road trip with a conference doubleheader against King University on Monday. First pitch in game one is slated for 2 p.m.