by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College softball team suffered two more close losses in Conference Carolinas play on Friday, falling to North Greenville University 2-1 and 6-3 at Jeffries Field.
In game one, the Crusaders broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the sixth inning and then held off a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh by Barton to take the win. In the nightcap, NGU took the lead in the fourth and then survived comeback attempts by the Lady Bulldogs in both the fifth and the seventh for the victory.
With the sweep, North Greenville improved to 22-12 overall and 9-5 in league play. The losses dropped Barton to 18-24 overall and 4-12 in the conference.
Game 1 – North Greenville 2, Barton 1
Barton pitcher Hannah Jones (8-9) turned in another strong effort with nothing to show for it. The junior from Huntersville, N.C., tossed her eighth complete-game of the year, scattering seven hits, walking one and striking out three.
She stranded two NGU runners in scoring position with a grounder back to the circle in the third, then worked around a leadoff triple by Grace DeBoer in the fourth without giving up a run.
The Lady Bulldogs produced two infield singles in the first off North Greenville ace Amanda Coffrin (16-3) but couldn't drive them in and had a runner gunned down at the plate to end the fourth inning.
NGU finally broke the scoreless tie with a two-out rally in the sixth. Ashton Withers reached on an infield single to short, and Kate Lee followed with a curling double down the right field line which Barton right fielder Jordan Blake couldn't come up with. Taylor Koon hit another ball in almost the exact same spot for a single, driving in Lee with the second run of the frame.
Down to its last out after two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh, Barton's Jessica Onega doubled to the fence in left-center. Pinch-hitter Ashton Pegram followed with a double in the gap in right-center, driving in Onega and putting herself in scoring position as the game-tying run. Makayla Meeks worked a 3-2 count before Coffrin retired her with a grounder back to the mound to end the game.
Coffrin recorded her 16th complete-game of the year. The senior gave up six hits, walked two and struck out two.
Onega had two of BC's six hits.
Game 2 – North Greenville 6, Barton 3
The Crusaders collected four straight two-out singles in the top of the first off Barton starter Ashton Pegram to score a run, but Pegram used a foulout to left field to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
BC's offense gave her a lead in the bottom of the second, once more on a two-out rally. Alison Montague drew a walk from NGU starter Jaelin Griffin, moved to third on Taylor Freeman's single to right field and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
After Griffin walked Blake and gave up a single to Sierra Hearp to load the bases, the Crusaders brought MacKenzie Dyson (3-3) in to pitch. However, Dyson issued a walk to Jones to force in a run and give the Lady Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage.
Pegram was lifted after three innings of work for Barton in favor of Teagan Crosby (2-5), who was greeted by a leadoff triple from Koon to begin the NGU fourth. Celsea Rivers followed with a single to center to tie the game at 2-all. One out later, Rivers stole second and advanced to third when the throw went off her helmet and into centerfield. DeBoer then beat out a bunt, scoring Rivers with an unearned run that put the Crusaders up 3-2.
The unearned run would become a common theme over the next few innings, as a total of six Barton errors in the contest began to cost the Lady Bulldogs.
In the fifth, North Greenville loaded the bases off Barton's third pitcher, Hearp, by producing three straight singles to open the frame, then scored a run on a one-out error at short. Hearp escaped further damage in that inning with two more outs, but Barton opened the sixth with two straight errors and made three in the frame, leading to two more runs.
The Lady Bulldogs had just gotten back within a run in the bottom of the fifth when Jones delivered a leadoff single, moved to second on a walk to Pegram and scored on a double to right by Onega.
Barton tried to rally one more time in the bottom of the seventh. Hearp reached base on an error to lead off the final at-bat, and Jones singled to left-center to bring the tying run to the plate with no one out. However, Dyson got a called third strike for the first out and then a groundball double play to end the game.
Dyson gave up three of BC's five hits in the game, walked two and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings to earn the win.
The Crusaders collected 12 hits off four Barton pitchers but stranded 11 runners.
Pegram scattered five hits and gave up one run during her three innings in the circle for BC. Jones had two of the five Barton hits.
Barton will host Southern Wesleyan University in a key league doubleheader tomorrow beginning at 2 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs currently hold the eighth and final qualifying spot for the upcoming league tournament, with SWU directly behind them in the standings.