Cougars still alive in Southern Conference softball tournament

GREENSBORO, N.C. - The second-seeded College of Charleston softball team outlasted No. 1 seed Appalachian State, 2-0, in a 10-inning pitchers' duel to stave off elimination and advance in the Southern Conference Tournament at the UNCG Softball Stadium on Thursday night.

With the win, CofC (36-19) advances to face No. 3 Georgia Southern on Friday, May 10 at 10 a.m. With a win in that game, the Cougars and Eagles would square off again at 3 p.m. with the winner advancing to the winner-take-all championship game.

"It was a great game by both teams and an obvious pitchers' duel," said head coach Shelly Hoerner. "Their pitcher pitched extremely well and we couldn't execute and cash runners in when we needed to. We left way too many runners on base but I had a feeling when we kept hitting and hitting I knew something was going to happen if we kept hitting the ball.

"Obviously you know going into an elimination game that every inning is going to be important, every out is going to be important, every pitch is going to be important. The battery was very clutch and complemented each other very well today."

Having already thrown 4.2 innings in the morning win over Chattanooga, Cougar pitcher Hope Klicker (Walla Walla, Wash.) threw an absolute gem by going the distance and scattering just four hits across the 10 scoreless innings. The left handed sophomore threw a highly-efficient 93 pitches with an overwhelming 72 going for strikes against the 35 batters she faced as she struck out six hitters without issuing a single walk. The complete game was Klicker's 20th of the season.

"I knew this was going to be a huge game with App State coming in as number one and us as number two; it was going to be a great competition," said Klicker. "I knew it was going to have to go inning by inning and pitch by pitch, and that's what we did. We knew it was a matter of time before something happened and luckily it did in the tenth inning. In the dugout, it was so exciting."

After the teams combined to strand 14 runners through nine innings, sophomore Mackenzie Maples (Corona, Calif.) hammered a two-run homerun to account for the game's only runs in the top of the tenth.

"Earlier in the day I wasn't seeing the ball as well as I wanted to so that was my main focus," said Maples. "With it being a 0-0 game, there was huge pressure on the offense and it was a big relief when I hit it."

Senior Ashton Jarrett (Hanahan, S.C.) went 3-for-4 and is now batting .636 (7-for-11) in the tournament.

Base runners were tough to come by in the early going, but the Mountaineers mounted the first threat in the bottom of the third when Sarah Warnock dropped a Texas-leaguer just inside the leftfield foul line and as she attempted to stretch it into a double, the Cougars threw the ball away to grant her third base with one out. Klicker worked out of the potential jam with a timely strikeout and then forced the third out to fly harmlessly out to centerfield.

The Cougars also threatened in their ensuing half inning by loading the bases with singles by Chandler Frisbie (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and Kristy Giragosian (Charlotte, N.C.) sandwiched around a Rebecca Mueller (Fair Oaks, Calif.) walk, but the Cougars then lacked the timely hit needed to deliver the game's first run.

Mueller, a SoCon all-freshman selection, extended her reaching-base streak to 20 consecutive games with the walk.

Both teams mustered a single in the fifth inning but neither could translate it into runs as the scoreless draw extended beyond regulation.

The Cougars put runners on base in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but were unable to convert, despite twice putting a runner on second base and placing runners on second and third in the eighth.

After App State's leadoff single in the fifth, Klicker retired 14 straight hitters before surrendering a single in the ninth, but worked around it to carry the Cougars into the 10th inning.

With the international tie breaker automatically placing a runner on second base in the 10th, Maples jumped on a 2-2 pitch with one out and sent a towering shot over the fence in right to finally break up the scoreless draw.

With App State's automatic runner on second base in the bottom half, Klicker retired the side on a pair of groundouts and a line out to preserve the win and oust the regular-season-champion Mountaineers from the tournament.

The Cougars have now won at least 36 games in each of the past three seasons and CofC boasts a 10-2 record with their backs against the wall in elimination games over the past three SoCon tournaments.