HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- A late rally from the fifth-seeded Lees-McRae College softball team fell short as the fourth-seeded Queens University of Charlotte Royals halted a seventh inning rally to earn a 5-3 victory in the opening round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament, hosted by Coker College.
The Royals (19-17) were paced by Kaitlyn Cheek and Brandy Jester as they battled to the win. Cheek tallied a 3-for-3 day at the plate, notching two doubles and belting a fifth inning home run to lead the Royals. Jester hurled seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out eight on the day.
Lindsey Huntsinger (Asheville, N.C.) led the Bobcats (22-26) with a two-run shot in the top half of the sixth inning, with Karli Robb (Hayes, Va.) adding an RBI in the top of the seventh to plate Lori Fulmer (Prosperity, S.C.) for the third run of the contest.
Queens opened scoring in the second, as Cheek laced a double down the left field line. Megan Lathbury followed with a bunt single to move Cheek to third, before Jester laced a single to left to plate Cheek for the first run of the day. Four batters later, Maria Goode recorded a base knock to left to plate Jester and Emily Poulton to make it a 3-0 Royal advantage.
The Royals added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Cheek ripped a home run to center to extend the margin to 5-0 in favor of Queens.
The Bobcats answered in the visitor half of the sixth inning when Robb reached on an error, setting the stage for Huntsinger, who belted her 13th four-bagger of the season to left field, cutting the Queens lead to 5-2.
The Bobcats sparked a two-out rally in the top of the seventh, with Robb singling in Fulmer with a ball down the left field line, before Jester notched a strike out to end the contest and give Queens the victory.
Laurel Gregg (Mars Hill, N.C) pitched six strong innings for the Bobcats, striking out five and scattering seven hits on the day. The Bobcats return to the diamond on Friday, April 15, at 2 p.m. to face off with seventh-seeded Belmont Abbey in the first round of consolation play in Hartsville, S.C.