No. 3 Armstrong Atlantic stages comeback in extras to sweep series
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- No. 3 Armstrong Atlantic completed a wild extra-inning comeback to sweep a Peach Belt Conference doubleheader against visiting UNC Pembroke on Sunday at the Armstrong Softball Field. The Pirates won game one 5-2, then took the second game 11-10 in nine innings.
Armstrong improved to 30-5-1 overall and 13-3 in the Peach Belt Conference with the pair of wins, while UNC Pembroke fell to 19-30 overall and 5-15 in the league.
Searching for a split in the doubleheader, UNC Pembroke jumped out to a 6-0 lead through the first four innings of the second game. The Braves scored twice in the first inning on an error and an RBI single by Megan Hillard, then added two in the second inning on a two-run double by Taylor Cloninger.
The Braves pushed the lead to six in the fourth on an RBI double by Hartley and another RBI single by Hillard, but the Pirates struck back with a big bottom of the fourth inning, plating five runs on an error and two-run home runs by Alexis Mercer and Celia Blome to make it a one-run game at 6-5.
The two teams traded runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Cloninger's RBI single in the top of the fifth made it 7-5, but Shelby Duff's leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth brought the Pirates back to within one. A solo home run by Brea Hartley in the top of the sixth was answered by the Pirates' Haley Ellis singling to center field to drive in a run.
Cloninger hit a one-out home run in the top of the seventh inning to put the Braves up by two 9-7, but Mercer answered with her second two-run home run of the game, tying the score at nine and sending the game into extra innings.
Again, Cloninger delivered for UNC Pembroke with a solo home run in the top of the ninth, making it 10-9. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Mercer collected a one-out single, then Hannah Reppert added a single to put the tying run in scoring position. A fielder's choice kept runners at first and second with two out. UNC Pembroke pitcher Starr Gilley induced a seemingly game-ending comebacker, but Gilley threw high to first base, allowing pinch runner Bethany Wilke to score the tying run. Brittany Cooley then won the game with a single down the left field line for the improbable 11-10 victory.
Megan Barnwell (19-3) won the second game in relief for the Pirates, giving up six hits and three runs in 4.2 innings of work, walking two while striking out six.
Gilley (8-11) took the loss in game two, giving up 10 hits and nine runs -- six earned -- in eight innings of work, walking two while striking out two.
Cloninger went 4-for-5 with a double, two home runs and five RBIs for the Braves in game two, while Hartley went 3-for-6 with a home run and two RBIs. Mercer went 3-for-5 with her pair of two-run home runs for four RBIs, while Shelby Duff and Haley Ellis added two-hit games.