HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- Larissa Shannon clubbed a go-ahead two-run home run in the third inning to lead the second-seeded Erskine College softball team to a 2-1 victory over fifth-seeded Lees-McRae College in the championship game of the Conference Carolinas Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
Erskine (24-15-1) captured the program's first-ever conference tournament title, ending Lees-McRae's (26-27) magical postseason run as the Bobcats face elimination throughout their tournament surge after falling to Queens University of Charlotte in the opening round.
Tournament MVP Kelsey Spurrier surrendered one unearned run on two hits while striking out four to lead the Flying Fleet to victory, as Shannon provided all of Erskine's offense with her two-run shot to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Shannon and Spurrier were joined on the all-tournament team by Lindsey LaPrad and Morgan Purcell.
Paige Coleman (Thomasville, N.C.) and Bryce Campbell (Amherst, Va.) each tallied a hit for the Bobcats, as senior Magen West (Whitney, Texas) allowed two runs on five hits in six innings of work. Coleman was joined on the all-tournament team by junior Kierstie Moon (Oxford, Ga.) and Laurel Gregg (Mars Hill, N.C.).
The game remained scoreless through the visitor half of the third before Shannon broke the deadlock by launching a 0-1 pitch over the wall in left, scoring J Smith from first to give the Flying Fleet a 2-0 advantage. Lees-McRae started to rally in the top of the fourth, plating a run on an RBI single by Coleman that scored Moon to cut the margin to 2-1.
The Bobcats continued to threaten in the fifth, opening the frame with an Anna Carter (Hurdle Mills, N.C.) and a Campbell single to put runners on first and second with no outs. After Lori Fulmer (Prosperity, S.C.) reached on a fielder's choice that forced the lead runner out at third, the Fleet capitalized on a sharp liner to first, doubling off the tailing runner and ending the threat.
Lees-McRae battled out of a jam in the bottom of the frame, surviving a pair of two-out base knocks by Shannon and Purcell to maintain the 2-1 Erskine margin heading into the sixth. Spurrier shut the door from there, retiring the side in each of the final two innings to clinch the tournament title for the Fleet.
Spurrier, Shannon, LaPrad, Purcell, Coleman, Gregg, and Moon were joined on the all-tournament team by Mount Olive College's Kelly Minshew, Coker College's Sydney Greenwalt, Alison Braswell and Melanie Conklin of Pfeiffer University, and Keeya Turner and Brandy Jester of Queens.
Lees-McRae is expected to return 11 letter-winners from this year's squad, including all-Conference Carolinas First Team selections Karli Robb (Hayes, Va.) and Lindsey Huntsinger (Asheville, N.C.). The Bobcats posted the program's first-ever winning record in Conference Carolinas play, concluding the regular season with a 10-8 record against league opponents to finish in a tie for third place.
- LMC -