Photo Courtesy of Matt Jones
BANNER ELK, N.C. – Lees-McRae College senior pitcher Kara Cunningham threw her first career no-hitter in an 8-0 five-inning victory over Converse College in the opening game of the team's final doubleheader of the regular season Thursday afternoon. The Bobcats completed the sweep of the Valkyries with a 5-2 victory in game two to close out their regular season with an overall record of 17-17 and 11-9 in league play.
Game 1 Recap – The story of game one was not only the no-hitter tossed by Cunningham but also Lees-McRae's eight-run outburst. All eight of the team's runs came in the second inning where the Bobcats sent 12 hitters to the plate. Highlighting the big inning for the Bobcats was Emily Merriam, who got things started with an one-out solo home run to go along with a two-out two-run single later in the frame.
Merriam would finish game one going 2-for-2 with that solo home run and three RBI. Faith Cooke also went 2-for-2 with two runs driven in to help the cause. Furthermore, Christian Welch, Cunningham, Katelyn Wyatt, Mallory Myers and Sarah Beth Thomas all had hits as well in the contest for Lees-McRae.
Cunningham's no-hitter has been a long time coming for not only her but also the program in general. The last no-hitter for the Bobcats came way back on April 11, 2006 when Hannah Morgan held St. Andrews to no hits in another five-inning contest. With the shutout, Cunningham is now the program's all-time leader in shutouts with 11 surpassing Amanda Dodson who had 10 during her time in the Green & Gold. Overall, Cunningham, who struck out four hitters in the victory and allowed just two baserunners in the contest. The win boosts Cunningham's record to 10-8 on the season.
Game 2 Recap – The second game Thursday was a little more tightly contested than game one. The Bobcats opened the scoring in the first inning plating four runs to jump on Converse quickly. Lees-McRae added another in the third before Converse scored two runs of their own fourth. However, the Bobcats were able to hold on for the 5-2 victory to complete their second conference sweep of the season.
Seven of the nine Bobcats in the starting lineup picked up base hits in the regular season finale. Julie Gast went 3-for-4 and Merriam continued her hot hitting going 3-for-3. Cunningham, Cooke, Wyatt, and Thomas all picked up hits as well. For Cunningham, her lone hit in game two was a double, which makes the Indian Trail, North Carolina native the all-time leader in doubles in program history with 39.
Sophomore Cassidy Largen picked up the win in the circle for Bobcats in game two logging 5.1 innings allowing six hits and two runs. With the victory, Largen improves to 5-2 this spring. Cunningham came in to relieve Largen in the sixth tossing 1.2 innings of scoreless relief and in doing so picked up the save.
Next Up – By virtue of their 11-9 record in conference play, the Bobcats will be the No. 5 seed for next week's Conference Carolinas Softball Tournament in Burlington, N.C. Lees-McRae's first opponent will be No. 4 Mount Olive next Friday. First pitch time for that contest is still to be determined.